- As Buratai orders soldiers to implement president’s directive
- Dont drag military into politics, PDP replies Army Chief
By Lawrence Olaoye, Tobias Lengnan Dapam and Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has thrown its weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to the military and police to be ruthless with ballot box snatchers during the coming elections.
Recall that the president had said anyone who attempts to snatch ballot boxes during the forthcoming polls will do so “at his own expense.”
This was coming just as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Yusuf Buratai said that the army will treat those seeking to scuttle the 2019 general elections as enemies of the country.
Buratai stated this yesterday at the Army Headquarters, in Abuja, during a meeting with Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and Directors.
FEC support for the President was disclosed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed after the FEC meeting, presided over by the President in Abuja.
Mohammed, who addressed journalists at the end of the meeting, said the FEC supported the President.
Asked whether the Council supported Buhari’s directive to the security agencies to shoot ballot box snatchers, Mohammed said “Absolutely. I mean if you want to intimidate voters to steal the mandate of the people, you should be able to face the wrath of the law.”
According to Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Yusuf Buratai “The unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, hence those who seek to undermine our democracy by interfering in our electoral process must be seen as enemies of Nigeria and dealt with appropriately.
“The act of electoral thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of elections materials and similar crimes are intended to mar an election and create deliberate avenues for post-election violence and mayhem.
“Such actions can also become more damaging when they are widespread, leading to destruction of lives and property”.
While saying that the army will be proactive to arrest any illegality, Buratai said similar events in previous elections were planned and orchestrated by politicians.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has cautioned the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, to refrain himself from acts or actions that will suggest in any way that the military has become an arm of a political party.
The leading opposition party gave the warning in a statement yesterday by its
National Publicity Secretary/Director, Media and Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organization, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja.
The PDP declared that Gen. Buratai’s allusion to the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as well as his threats to officers and ranks to execute the order by President Muhammadu Buhari to participate in the electoral process is an aberration of our laws and a recipe for crisis.
According to the statement, “The PDP states that Atiku Abubakar spoke on the side of the law and wishes of Nigerians, and cannot be intimidated by anybody no matter how highly placed.
“Gen. Buratai is counseled to note that the loyalty of the military is to the state and that the President lacks the powers, under our laws, to deploy soldiers for the conduct of elections.
“Our party urges Gen Buratai to concentrate on his very demanding assignment of protecting the territorial integrity of our nation and ending insurgency, rather than dabbling into partisan politics at the risk of our national cohesion.
“The party directs President Buhari to the judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos on March 23, 2015, wherein the court, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba, directly outlawed the deployment of troops in the conduct of elections in our country.
“President Buhari should also avail himself of the subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal, which on February 15, 2015, held that the President has no powers to deploy soldiers in the conduct of elections.
“The PDP further counsels President Buhari and Gen. Buratai to end their rationalizing of military option, as the courts have summarily dismissed their arguments that soldiers are needed to guarantee peaceful elections.
“It may interest President Buhari to know that the judgment was sequel to a suit filed by the APC Leader in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, seeking a declaration that deployment of soldiers during elections is illegal and unconstitutional.
“In case, President Buhari is not aware, as usual, the court directly held that “the Armed Forces have no role in elections” and if soldiers must vote, they must do so in their barracks.
“According to the court, “the time has come for us to establish the culture of democratic rule in the country and to start to do the right thing particularly when it has to do with dealing with the electoral process, which is one of the pillars of democracy.
“In spite of the behaviour of the political class, we should by all means try to keep armed personnel and military from being a part and parcel of the electoral process.
“The state is obligated to confine the military to their very demanding assignment, especially in this time of insurgencies by keeping them out of elections”, the court held.
It added, “The priming of the military ahead of the election, therefore, heightens the fear of plots by the APC to plunge our nation into crisis and use security forces to subjugate Nigerians, seeing that President Buhari has no chance of winning the February 23 Presidential Election.”
Also yesterday, President Buhari has ordered earlier payment of salaries to civil servants to enable them travel to cast their votes this weekend.
Lai Mohammed who revealed this, listed several efforts made by organisations to cushion the effect of the postponement of the polls on the people.
He said, “On the part of the federal government also, we decided that to make it easy for those who will want to go back (to their home towns) to vote, salary payment started yesterday (Tuesday) as opposed to the normal 25th of every month. This is just to ease the burden of people who want to go back and cast their vote.”
He continued, “The Independent Petroleum organisation of Nigeria, (IPMAN), with over 50,000 members and who control almost 80 percent of our distribution network, met a couple days ago on how to cushion the effect of postponement, announced the reduction of the price of Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) from N145 per liter to N140 per liter. This discount reflect the alignment of IPMAN with government and the discount is valid between the 21st of February and the 25th, this year to allow those who want to go back home to vote.
“Also, the National Union of Road Transport Workers, which has about 2 million members and who operate motor parks in all 774 local government areas of the country, an affiliate of Nigeria Labour Congress with members cutting across drivers, bus boys, motor parks operators etc, have offered to provide discounts to travelers using their motor parks and members who are looking to travel to their respective voting points. This discount is also to encourage voters who would have normally been disenfranchised as a result of INEC’s postponement. This discount is also valid between the 21st of February and the 25th February.
Arik and Aero airlines have also thrown in their own incentives. Aero contractors have offered 50 percent discount to all travelers who present their permanent voters card (PVC) at the purchasing point. Arik will be selling their one way ticket at N16,000 to any destination across the country. This is to support Nigerians looking to travel to cast their vote. The discount is valid between the 18th of February and the 11th of March.”