There are heartwarming stories about “man’s best friend” following him everywhere, including to the polls. In fact, there is a hashtag for the British elections on Twitter, where voters post adorable photos of themselves with their dogs at polling places.
Is it, however, coming as a friend or a guard?
These reports of people bringing dogs to polling places are in response to threats of electoral violence. There have been both subtle and not-so-subtle reports of potential voter intimidation during the elections.
Even before the gubernatorial and presidential elections, these reports were ongoing.
Can you take your dog to the polling unit?
It is not unusual for dogs to be present at the voting booth in Nigerian elections. A report from 2016 claimed that the NSCDC was set to deploy sniffer dogs for the elections in Osun State.
This was done in order to identify explosive materials and to make the voting process safer for everyone.
Thirty special dogs were deployed to the Anambra gubernatorial election in 2017. Voters were guaranteed their safety and that the presence of these security apparatuses, i.e., dogs, would not meddle with the electoral process.
However, there haven’t been any reports of individual voters bringing their dogs to the polling place, so this can be viewed as a relatively recent phenomenon.
What the law says
Under the Electoral Act, dogs are not explicitly forbidden from being present in polling places or polling units. While dogs were not specifically mentioned in Section 126 of the Act, it is possible to infer that their presence at the polling units may be considered an offence.
In this instance, dogs are brought with the intention of providing security or protection; as a result, they unintentionally have the potential to intimidate, which places them within the scope of the prohibited acts specified in that section.
The Nigerian police force issued a statement on March 7, 2023, advising protesters against bringing dogs to polling places. The police warned that doing so would result in voter intimidation, which would be a clear violation of Section 126 of the Electoral Act.
Do the police have the power to issue such regulations?
The electoral act gives the police authority to ensure safety and adherence to the law, including the laws that govern the electoral process.
In Nigeria, the code of conduct and rules of engagement for election security allow for the empowerment of security details to guarantee security and adherence to legal requirements during the conduct of elections.
To err on the side of caution, voters should avoid taking their pets to the polling units for the purpose of security.