CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, on Friday, asked voters in the coming polls to stay back at polling stations after voting if they choose to.
Jega’s statement came 24 hours after the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, warned voters to go back to their homes after casting their votes.
The INEC chairman, while answering questions on Channels television on Friday morning, however, countered this, declaring that, “If you choose to remain at the polling stations after casting your votes, stay, but don’t do anything that constitutes loitering” which, he said, was an electoral offence.
While explaining that what the Electoral Act forbids is loitering, Jega noted that one of the decisions that gave the 2011 elections credibility was allowing voters to wait after casting their voters to observe the conclusion of the process.
Prof. Jega disclosed that card readers would eliminate fraud usually associated with number of accredited voters and total votes cast in elections.
“The normal thing for presiding officers to do after the close of accreditation is to enter the total number of accredited voters in the relevant form before voting starts. But in the past, either due to intimidation or compromise, the official would not do this to allow politicians inflate the number of votes cast. They did this to avoid having more votes recorded than the number of accredited voters. The card reader won’t allow that to happen as it records the number of authenticated PVCs,” he said.
He also stressed that all stakeholders were carried along before INEC ratified the use of card readers for the elections, declaring that the first set of people who witnessed the demonstration of card readers were the party chairmen.
In a reaction to Jega’s statement, the All Progressives Congress (APC), told voters to ignore what it called “unlawful order” by the Inspector-General of Police urging them to go home after casting their ballots during the elections.
In a statement, on Friday, in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said the electorate should rather listen to Jega, who said the electoral law does not state anywhere that voters cannot or should not wait to watch and ensure that their votes are counted.
It, therefore, urged the electorate to make sure they stay behind after casting their votes till the process is completed.
The APC said contrary to the directive by the IGP, INEC encourages voters to stay behind and watch their votes counted, saying that the law expects them to stay behind but to conduct themselves in an orderly manner.
“According to Jega, who appeared on Channels TV on Friday morning, the electoral law says anyone that desires to monitor events should stay at least some metres away from the polling agents and completely away from the ballot boxes after casting their votes.
“The INEC chairman further clarified that all registered voters have businesses with the process and can, therefore, not be classified as people that don’t have businesses at polling units.
“Therefore, the IGP has no constitutional right or powers under the constitution or Police Act to rewrite the electoral law. The role of the police is to maintain law and order or such other assistance as may be sought from the police by INEC,” the party said.
It also called on Nigerians to ignore the “so-called” public service announcement concerning the show of force by government security agencies, saying it was part of efforts to intimidate the electorate and pave the way for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rig the elections.
The APC asked Nigerians to ignore the SMS being sent around, asking them to send their names and the last five digits of their VIN (Voter Identification Number) to certain numbers.
“These and other messages are being sent out by the PDP to steal people’s PVCs, intimidate voters and manipulate the elections. Nigerians should never allow that to happen,” the party said.
In another development, the police authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to preparing the ground for hitch-free polls on March 28 and April 11.
They stressed the determination of the Force to enforce all relevant laws in order to guarantee peace and security in the country.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, a Commissioner of Police, said in Abuja, on Friday, that the IG warned those planning to foment trouble or cause confusion on election days or after to desist in their own interest or be ready to face the law.
Ojukwu said police intervention teams would be on hand to contain any situation and bring troublemakers to justice.
According to him, the police high command had emphasised that the Force would remain impartial.
He advised politicians to shun any act capable of causing a breach of public peace.
The police chief also enjoined members of the public to collaborate with the police by exposing criminals in their midst and reporting suspicious movements in their areas.