INEC has taken a different position from President Muhammadu Buhari on what should be the fate of people involved in ballot snatching and other electoral malpractices on Election Day.
“Our position is that all violators of the Electoral Act should be punished according to the provisions of the Electoral Act,” Yakubu said.
Back Story: While speaking on Monday at his party’s national caucus meeting in Abuja, President Buhari said he had given orders to security agencies to “deal ruthlessly” with those involved in ballot snatching. “I am going to warn anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs or to disturb the voting system, he will do so at the expense of his life,” Buhari had said. “I really gave the military and the police order to be ruthless. ANyone who decides to snatch ballot boxes or lead thugs to disturb it, maybe this is the last unlawful action you will take.”
Yakubu was asked at a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon for a reaction to comments by the president, and his response was that punishment for offenders must follow the law as stipulated in the Electoral Act.
What the law says: Section 129(4) of the Electoral Act provides a maximum sentence of 24 months in prison for ballot snatchers. Also, those involved directly or indirectly in electoral violence are liable to spend three years in prison.
Why it matters: President Buhari often feels as though the laws do not apply to him, expressing impatience with the country’s laws several times since his election. The position of the INEC chairman is welcome here. As terrible as electoral malpractice is, the rule of law must apply at all times.