The Nigerian government Tuesday said President Muhammadu Buhari's threat to ballot papers snatchers should be "seen as a strong message against the long history of savagery associated with elections in the country."
"Snatching ballot boxes often entails putting the lives of innocent Nigerians at risk," President Buhari's spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.
"About 10 years ago, evidence was brought before an election tribunal from one of the states in North Central of the gruesome killing of 26 prospective voters by ballot box snatchers."
"Their modus operandi is well known. They storm election venues in commando style, overwhelm the law-enforcement agents and seize ballot boxes leaving a trail of death and injury," he added.
Shehu's reactions came after the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said Buhari's death threat to ballot paper snatchers was "a direct call for Jungle Justice."
"We do hope that this call by President Buhari is not a camouflage for the fake soldiers mobilized by the APC to shoot at innocent Nigerians, snatch ballot boxes and execute their rigging plans on the election day," PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said in a statement on Monday
"It is indeed a license to kill, which should not come from any leader of any civilized nation," he added.
But Shehu insisted that the president was right by making such call, stating that anyone who "put the lives of innocent citizens at risk in their desperation to rig elections, must be prepared for the possibility of losing their own lives."
He affirmed that "security agents will certainly not stand by, clap for them and watch them kill and maim."
Shehu maintained that the opposition party's reaction and condemnation of the president's statement showed they were afraid the president will not tolerate such during the elections.
The president's spokesman further expressed concern about those attacking the president's comment, and their worry over the fate of anyone caught snatching ballot boxes.
"This sounds like members of the opposition, specifically the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who have perfected plans to rig the elections and to snatch ballot boxes. They can tell that President Buhari is not prepared to tolerate their antics this time around, and they are afraid. They have shown their intent," Shehu said.
"Let's just have free and fair elections and no one need worry about anything," he said.