The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Sunday, said it has constituted a legal team that would help the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to prosecute electoral offenders.
The legal body, through its President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, disclosed that over 300 legal practitioners have already declared their readiness to offer their service to the electoral body, free of charge.
Maikyau, SAN, who briefed newsmen at the NBA Election Situation Room, further flayed President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office holders that publicly displayed their thumbprinted ballot papers to indicate the party they voted for.
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Describing the action as condemnable, NBA maintained that it was not examplary, saying it would not hesitate to take up the prosecution of those that compromised the secrecy of the ballot.
“The NBA condemns such an action because it is not examplary. It is not something that should be done by anybody in position of authority.
“We condemn such act and if the people involved are charged by INEC for acting in breach of the Electoral Act, we will also offer our pro-bono service, except maybe for those that are currently enjoying immunity.
“However, if after they exit office and they are charged for breaching the law, we will also prosecute them.
“We stand for the rule of law and no one no matter how highly placed is above the law. That is the emphasis of the NBA”, Maikyau, SAN, added.
It will be recalled that President Buhari had at his hometown in Daura, Katsina State, before he dropped his thumbprinted ballot paper in the box during the Presidential/National Assembly election last Saturday, held it up to establish that he voted for the All Progressives Congress, APC, an action that drew flaks for him.
However, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who engaged in the same conduct, in a statement he made available to newsmen, insisted that the action was not act in contravention of any provision of the law.
Malami, SAN, said: “It is important to educate the general public that the section of the Electoral Law being referred to talks about individuals attempting to ‘obtain in a polling unit, information as to the candidate for whom a voter in that place is about to vote for or has voted’.
“Section 122(3a)and (3b) provides: +3) No person shall—
(a)interfere with a voter casting his or her vote, or by any other means obtain or
attempt to obtain in a polling unit, information as to the candidate for whom a voter in that place is about to vote for or has voted for; or
“(b) communicate at any time to any other person information obtained in a polling unit as to the candidate to whom a voter is about to vote or has voted for*”
“It is clear that the laws was referring to a third party individual seeking information about another voter’s choice and disclosing to others the obtained information of a third party choice.
“Section 122(3)(b) prohibits third party individual to ‘communicate at any time to any other person information obtained in a polling unit as to the candidate to whom a voter (someone else) is about to vote or has voted for’.
“The law does not contemplate puting restrictions on individuals revealing by themselves and out of their own volition, of candidate(s) they voted for.
“Moreover, the freedom of expression and right to belong to lawful associations are constitutionally guaranteed rights as contained in Sections 39, 40 and 42”, Malami argued.