Civil society

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has decried President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Nigeria Police Force and the military to be ruthless on ballot snatchers.

President Buhari had on Monday during the All Progressives Congress (APC) national caucus meeting in Abuja said “I really gave the military and the police order to be ruthless… Anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturbs the voting system will do so at the expense of his own life”.

Reacting, the Lead Director of the CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, said on Monday in Abuja that Section 33 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides that:

(1) “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.

(2) A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section, if he dies as a result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably necessary –

(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property:

(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or

(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.

According to him, the President by his directive has asked the law enforcement agencies to take laws into their hands by arbitrarily executing anyone suspected of ballot snatching or violence.

“This directive clearly violates the constitutional guarantee of the right to life and cannot be justified under any of the exceptions to the general rule.

“Evidently, the President is out of touch with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which he swore to uphold and this shows that the military mindset is still dominant in his acts and omissions.

“It is imperative to remind members of the security forces that obedience to an unlawful order is not a defence to the crime of murder or any other violation of human rights or the criminal laws of Nigeria. Any security man who obeys such misguided order obeys it at his peril,” Onyekpere said.

He therefore urged the President to immediately withdraw this directive and give the proper directive that security agencies should arrest and prosecute persons who are found or suspected of committing electoral crimes.

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