The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, and the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Friday clashed over the police chief’s “vote and go home order.”
While the IGP had warned voters to go back to their homes after casting their votes on election days, Jega said the electoral law did not state that voters could not or should not wait to watch and ensure that their votes count.
The IGP, who addressed accredited observers for the forthcoming general elections in Abuja, said the possibility of committing electoral offence was very high if voters stayed back at the polling booths for votes to be counted.
He said that each polling unit would have at least two or three policemen to protect votes cast by the electorate.
“We will go on to protect the electorate. Every eligible voter should feel safe enough to cast his votes. We will be there to protect the votes and make sure no one disrupts the process,” Abba said
But Jega disagreed with the police chief.
The INEC chairman, who appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, said there is no part of the Electoral Act that forbids voters from waiting at the polling booths, adding that the law was only against loitering.
Also, Jega’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu, stressed the position of the commission’s boss, adding that no law bars voters from staying around polling centers.
He said, “Jega did not contradict the IGP; he did not contradict anything that is in the law and what the IGP said. What the IGP said was that this regulation of INEC that says people can stay back in polling units, that he is uncomfortable about it because the Electoral Act provides that anybody who loiters around the polling units or commits an electoral offence can be prosecuted.
“He said if you stay at the polling unit, there is a very high chance that you will commit an electoral offense. People who loiter within the polling units do not have legitimate business.
“That was exactly what Jega said, that if you want to stay, you must stay on the condition that your conduct will not constitute an electoral offense. You will not abuse people, you will not be aggressive towards people, you will be calm and you will not be unruly. As such, the security agents will not apprehend you.”
However, the All Progressives Congress tackled the IGP over the “unlawful order.”
In a statement in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party asked voters to rather listen to Jega and stayed behind to protect their votes after casting their ballots.
The statement read, “According to Jega, who appeared on Channels TV on Friday morning, the electoral law says anyone that has no business with the electoral process at the polling booths but desires to monitor events should stay at least some metres away from the polling agents and completely away from the ballot box 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.”