Introduction:

The Elections are few days away and Nigerians are eager to exercise their voting rights.

This article seeks to address President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement/directive that the security agents should “deal ruthlessly with anybody that snatches ballot box(es) and that such a person would so at the expense of his own life”, they question that will be answered by this article is that;

  1. Was President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB)’s directive lawful?
  2. Was PMB’s statement politically correct?
  1. LEGALITY OF PMB’S DIRECTIVE:

Many Nigerians particularly the oppositions and socio-political analyst have misconstrued PMB’s directive.

However, the statement “deal ruthlessly” and “expense of his own life” are the key words here which mean without mincing words, the security agents have been directed by their Commander-in-Chief to take the life of any ballot snatcher.

Further to the above, I opine that the directive is well backed by law and same shall be addressed under this head.

Section 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) (CFRN) provides thus:

  • 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.
  • 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 –
  • for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property;
  • in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
  • for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.

The above constitutional provision without any scintilla of doubt gives right to life and also provides instances where such life can be taken and same will be justified. They are as follows:

  1. in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria;
  2. 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 –
  3. for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property;
  4. in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
  5. for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.

Flowing from the above, it is clear that where person(s) invade a polling unit or centre to cause riot and a security agent is obligated to apply such force as necessary to the situation. Hence, where such persons are armed with ammunitions and offensive weapons, such security agent is constitutionally permitted to use such force that is proportionate to the act, in this instance if he shoots to kill, that is an exception. See Okorodudu v. The State (2014) LPELR-23210(CA)

Also, in the defence of the ballot box which is a property of INEC, a security agent is permitted under Section 33 (2a) of the CFRN to apply such force as may be reasonable. The force to be applied depends on the force or action of the person carting away with the ballot box or invading the polling unit/center.

In light of the above, it is clear that the directive of Mr. President is well grounded in the grundnorm.

Also, another law that must be considered to put this issue to bed is the Robbery and Fireams (Special Provisions) Act. I submit that any person who takes away the ballot box without the use of arms or offensive weapons is guilty of the offence of robbery. However, where such person uses arms or offensive weapons is guilty of the offence of armed robbery and shall be sentenced to death by hanging or firing squad.

Section 1 (1) and (2) of the Robbery and Fireams (Special Provisions) Act, provides thus:

  1. Punishment for robbery

(1)    Any person who commits the offence of robbery shall upon trial and conviction under this Act, be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than 21 years.

(2)    If-

(a)    any offender mentioned in subsection (1) of this section is armed with any firearms or any offensive weapon or is in company with any person so armed; or

(b)    at or immediately before or immediately after the time of the robbery the said offender wounds or uses any personal violence to any person, he offender shall be liable upon conviction under this Act to be sentenced to death.

(3)    The sentence of death imposed under this section may be executed by hanging the offender by the neck till he be dead or by causing such offender to suffer death by firing squad as the Governor may direct.

  1. Punishment for attempted robbery, etc.

(1)    Any person who, with intent to steal anything, assaults any other person and at or immediately after the time of assault, uses or threatens to use actual violence to any other person or any property in order to obtain the thing intended to be stolen shall upon conviction under this Act be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than fourteen years but not more than twenty years.

(2)    If-

(a)    any offender mentioned in subsection (1) of this section is armed with any firearms or any offensive weapon or is in company with any other person so armed; or

(b)    at or immediately before or immediately after the time of the assault the said offender wounds or uses any other personal violence to any person, the offender shall upon conviction under this Act be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

The above provisions stipulated the following offences and their punishments as follows:

  1. Robbery – a term not less than 21 (Twenty-One) years imprisonment;
  2. Armed Robbery – sentenced to death by hanging or firing squad;
  • Attempted Robbery – sentenced to imprisonment for not less than fourteen years but not more than twenty years;
  1. Attempted Armed Robbery – sentenced to imprisonment for life.

Section 11 (Interpretation) of the Armed Robbery and Fireams Act, provides thus:

(1)    In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

firearms” includes any canon, gun, rifle, carbine, machine-gun, cap-gun, flint-lock gun, revolver, pistol, explosive or ammunition or other firearm, whether whole or in detached pieces;

“offensive weapon” means any article (apart from a firearm) made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person or intended by the person having it for such use by him and it includes an air gun, air pistol, bow and aITOW, spear, cutlass, marcher, dagger, cudgel, or any piece of wood, metal, glass or stone capable of being used as an offensive
weapon;

“robbery” means stealing anything and, at or immediately before or after the time of stealing it, using or threatening to use actual violence to any person or property in order to obtain or retain the thing stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to its being stolen or retained;

In conclusion, I submit that the President has done no wrong legally in his directive to the security agents. Also, saying that the directive is politically motivated or inappropriate depends on your political stance.

I wish all Nigerians a peaceful, free and fair Election

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