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Imagine ! Onovo seeks power for Police to shoot at Elections

The Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo has demanded for extra powers for the force to contain violence at the venues of future elections in the country.

Speaking at the public hearing on "A bill for an Act to further amend the Police Act 1967," Mr. Onovo specifically asked that the police should be empowered to shoot any persons who perpetrate violence through the use of gun at polling stations.

The hearing was organised by a subcommittee of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution. The subcommittee is headed by the Chief Whip, Emeka Ihedioha.

Mr. Onovo also asked for the amendment of the Section 4 (a) of the Police Act by inserting the word "lawfully" in it.

The section states that "Police shall while on duty safeguard the security of the lives and property of citizens during the campaign and voting so that citizens will not feel unsafe on account of holding, associating with or expressing a political opinion." Others demand Mr. Onovo made are that

1. the police should be empowered to arrest, search and detain any person upon reasonable suspicion of concealment of offensive weapons or electoral materials at the venue of any election or any other place, whatsoever;

2. the police should be empowered to use reasonable force to carry out such duties under the Act;

3. the Police should be empowered to arrest and prosecute any offender before, during and after elections;

4. a reasonable time limit should be spelt out to enable the police to return to their routine duties after the election;

5. the Police should be present at the counting centres and given certified copies of all the elections for record purposes; and

6.the police should be empowered to arrest any other person(s) who commit any other electoral offence under this Act.

Mr. Onovo explained that the force is demanding powers to shoot at the venues of election because some members of the public could confront police officers or electoral officers with guns.

He added that the original act does not give members of the force the powers to do anything unless directed by electoral officers being harassed.

He said that, if amended, the nature of confrontation against the police or electoral officers would determine the kind of weapons the police would use. Among the weapons are teargas, water cannon and lethal weapons.

"We all know that when they are coming they don't come in a friendly manner but they come heavily armed. They even fire to scare people away. So, we will need reasonable force to be able to prevent them from stealing, hijacking or altering results. In this case, we have to stop them when they come with, for example, AK 47. So, we want to use firearms when the lives of others are in danger," Mr. Onovo said.

When probed further by the lawmakers on what "reasonable force" means, the Inspector General said it could also include persuasion and dialogue.

Also speaking at the hearing, the former Inspector General, Sunday Ehindero, argued that it is not the Police Act that needed amendment but the Electoral Act 2006.

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa, told the lawmakers that the bill did not remove any power which the police have but assured that he would reconcile the differences between the bill and the proposals made by Mr. Onovo.

However, member of the subcommittee were suspicious that if given the powers, the police could abuse some of them. They also complained that the powers could be used against members of the opposition parties.

A member, Abdul Ningi, who is also the chairperson of the Police Affairs Committee of the House, said if given the power to arrest, search and detain anybody on reasonable suspicion, the police officers could do so for flimsy reasons.

Another member of the House, George Daika, also complained that if the police were allowed a time limit to stay at election venues, trouble could ensue when they have left.

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Comment by ogechi on August 25, 2009 at 11:14am
our policemen should be caution how to use this power so that it will not be the innocent one suffering.
Onovo should caution on bribe taken cos is been done openly nothing to hide is not giving them good name.please address this urgently.
Comment by John kaluson on August 22, 2009 at 1:59pm
Our policemen are still demanding for more powers to kill, destroye and to intimidate the innocent men and women who wants their voices to be heard by the united nations, over the evil and corruption that has been happening in Nigeria. By the way, they should not be demanding for any power, they are doing a lot things, without asking a special power for it, for example who gives tehm power to be collecting bribes. They should go ahead and do whatever they wants to do, but one day monkey will go market he will not return again. I don´t even know who cares about this their election, when our votes are not been counted, who cares of going to vote.
Comment by Winifred on August 14, 2009 at 11:51am
How are we sure that it is not going to be abused.My problem with this is that the poor are always at the receiving end.May be with this other issues will be dealt with.
Comment by COLLINS on August 14, 2009 at 7:09am
I am sure that with this development the party in power will use this state apparatus to intimidate the opposition especially if they felt being defeated in an election.
Comment by maduabuchi onuoha on August 14, 2009 at 2:01am
the inpector general is giving his opinion as igp of the police force which he thigns can help solve the electoral rigging but to my mind applying force or empowering the police as he requested can not in any way solve the problem rather it will aggrevate it the more . i thing the best is stop the use of police during elections.and saction any political party that is found guilty and award the opposing party the winner authormatically with these measures all the parties will learnt there lessons
Comment by Eddy Etuk on August 13, 2009 at 12:40pm
Trigger happy cops must be very happy with this development
Comment by eucharia ukoha on August 13, 2009 at 12:23pm
d power that was given to them before,is it not wat they use to kill innocent civilians for just N20.
Comment by Oladipupo on August 13, 2009 at 12:07pm
This is because we are sick and need help.
Comment by sunday arogbonlo on August 13, 2009 at 11:52am
well if i may ask,the police are they truely our friend ????????????
Comment by Inegbenijie Oziegbe on August 13, 2009 at 11:38am
WELL SAID MY BRO
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