Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has read the riot act to underage voters, ordering the police to immediately arrest person attempting to vote during the presidential and National Assembly polls this weekend.
Similarly, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu Abubakar, has said that contrary to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to shoot ballot-box snatchers, a police special unit headed by the Commissioner of Police in charge of the legal department, would prosecute arrested defaulters.
Speaking separately during the daily media briefing to update Nigerians on the progress made ahead of this weekend’s poll, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, warned that those who sponsor underage persons to vote in elections will equally be arrested.
According to him, “underage voting is an illegality because there is a statutory age for registration of voters but what you should do as a voter, if on election day, you find anyone that is apparently underage or conclusively so, kindly report this to any official of the commission or security agencies.
“Working with the IGP, I say any underage person caught trying to be accredited for voting on election day will be arrested. Voting is only open to Nigerian citizen who are of the statutory age of 18. It is an illegality and let me seize this opportunity to warn those who sponsor underage persons to vote on the election day that they will be arrested. And the good thing is that in the numerous elections that this commission has undertaken, we have never had any incident of underage voting,” he said.
In his keynote address, the IGP said: “Voting proper is taking place on Saturday. I have explained severally to Nigerians that the security of the electorate, the observers, INEC staff and electoral materials is assured. Maximum security is provided before, during and after the election.
“In the polling boot or polling unit, there will be at least three security personnel to protect the electorate, INEC officials and electoral materials. The personnel there will not be armed and there will be no need for apprehension while the election is going on. We have some group of people who might want to disrupt the election, we have put in place strategy to stop that.
“We have tactical unit of our personnel and other services that will be patrolling everywhere to ensure that the process is not disrupted. And the patrolling personnel will be armed and will deal with anybody who wants to disrupt the process in the course of the election. If any electoral offence is committed, we will work with the INEC officials to apprehend the culprit and set up investigative team headed by Commissioner of Police in charge of legal to investigate the cases and prosecute them.
“Be it vote buying, ballot-box snatching, be it thuggery, if you commit that, you will be arrested and prosecuted. After the voting, movement of electoral materials to the collation centre will be protected. Armed security personnel will be posted to the ward collation centres.
“Even when the results are announced, we have put strategies in place to prevent those people planning to disrupt the election. So, what we require from all Nigerians is to go out peacefully, cast your vote and wait for the announcement of the results.
“You have no business on the election day if you are not an accredited official. Please don’t come out. All accredited officials whether domestic or foreign observers, must carry their tags. You can move freely and be protected. If you identify anybody that wants to infiltrate you and claim to be an observer for a group, we will appreciate you exposing such a person for us to remove him or her from you group,” he said.
While giving further update on the poll, INEC chairman warned against false declaration of results, stressing that only the commission is statutorily authorised to announce the collated results.
“As we go to the polls tomorrow, I appeal to voters to be peaceful and orderly before, during and after the elections. The police, working with other security agencies, have assured us of adequate security for voters, electoral officials, observers, and journalists. May I also appeal to all to ensure compliance with the usual restriction of movement for those who are not observers or on essential duties.
“Only INEC is empowered by law to declare election results. I urge everyone to refrain from issuing any result. The commission will work assiduously to ensure that the collation and declaration of results are done at the various levels expeditiously,” he said.