Reactions continue to trail today’s call by the Inspector General of Police on voters, to vacate polling booths after voting. Here is a letter from United Nations Peace Ambassador, Abiodun Oyinlade;
ADEOLA AUSTIN OYINLADE, LLB, BL, LLM, United Nations Peace Ambassador
20th March, 2015
Mr. Suleiman Abba,
The Inspector-General of Police,
The Nigeria Police Force Headquarters,
Louis Edet House,
RE: NO WAITING AT POLLING BOOTHS AFTER VOTING
I want to commend you sir for the adequate preparation of the Nigeria Police Force in order to record violence-free, fair and credible 2015 general elections. I also want to use this opportunity to commend our service men and women for ensuring protection of lives and properties in Nigeria. No matter the reservation anyone has for the Nigerian police force, I make bold to say that without you and our officers on ground, lives will be ‘nasty, brutish and short’ in the words of Thomas Hobbes.
Kindly permit me to use this open letter as a concerned citizen of Nigeria to ask for your clarification on a statement credited to you sir and widely reported on the pages of Newspapers. A good example is the one on the front page and page 2 of The Punch Newspaper titled “No waiting at polling booths after voting – IG”, dated March 20, 2015. I understand that open letters in the last two years have served different purposes for different individuals, but this only seeks your clarification on what appeared not to be cleared to me and other well meaning Nigerians.
In view of the above statement credited to you sir, could it be possible to say that was an order or a piece of advice to Nigerians? As a lawyer, I have tried in vain to see whether such assertion has any force of law as no law stipulates a time where any eligible voters must vacate the polling booths. I have also checked my primary and secondary sources of law and I can say that there is no law in force in Nigeria against eligible voters from witnessing the count of ballot papers after voting.
I read that your justification for the declaration was that “the possibility of committing electoral offence was very high if voters stayed back at the polling booths for votes to be counted.” I strongly believe that the essence of security in this task is not only to protect INEC officials and electoral materials but also the citizens. I also believe that the police can invoke their power of arrest under the Police Act against anyone who may want to breach public peace before, during and after elections.
Sir, you will agree with me that the political atmosphere of Nigeria is tensed at the moment. The attention of the whole world is on Nigeria as we go to the polls. As a United Nations Peace Ambassador and resource person to African Union on the implementation of African Youth Charter, UNESCO and UNDP, I have being privileged to hear from people within and outside Nigeria their expectations about the coming polls. While I believe that waiting till ballot papers are counted will see the process to the legitimate end, I also believe too that seeing voters standing and with our service men and women on ground can make anyone planning to steal ballot boxes to have a rethink rather than asking eligible voters to leave.
I want to thank you in anticipation for this clarification.
I wish Nigerians an emphatic success as we decide again.
Adeola Austin Oyinlade Esq