Arrest, prosecute electoral law violators , NHRC tells police

By Edith Nwapi

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has charged the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other law enforcement and agencies to arrest and prosecute electoral law offenders.

The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, made the recommendation while addressing a news conference on the preliminary findings of last Saturday’s election .

He said preliminary findings from the commission’s field monitors and Human Rights Situation Room provided an important snapshot of the human rights situation during the Governorship and House of Assembly elections.

According to him, the commission will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information are made available.

He called on relevant authorities to take necessary actions to address the issues raised in the report to ensure that future elections are free, fair, and peaceful.

“The police should arrest and prosecute all verified cases of political violence including attacks and snatching of ballot boxes and materials.

“The police should also deploy human rights based approaches in managing cases of post – election violence and ensure the protection of lives and properties as we conclude the 2023 electoral circle.

“All law enforcement and security agents in the remaining unconcluded ongoing elections maintain political neutrality and impartiality in the election operations.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in conducting future off-cycle elections, should continue to ensure transparency and integrity in the electoral processes,” he said.

He noted that  there were violence in some polling units, attacks on INEC officials. on journalists, ballot box snatching, voter suppression and vote buying.

“The commission received with great concern, the attack on the ARISE News crew at Elegushi Palace. We call on the law enforcement to investigate these and other incidents of violence and bring the perpetrators to book.

“The commission also received reports of the killing of alleged thugs in Lagos, Katsina and Benue states, Labour Party agents in Lagos. Elections are not war and no life should be lost in the process of elections,” he said.

Answering questions from the newsmen on inciting utterances by some politicians which went viral, Ojukwu said the commission will invite those indicted.

The news Agency of Nigeria reports that election was held in 28 states while the state Houses of Assembly was held in all the 36 states of the Federation excluding the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

According to Ojukwu, the commission, as part of its mandate to promote and protect human rights deployed 600 staff Human Right Monitors across the 36 states for the elections.

“NHRC also through the commission’s situation room, closely monitored the elections and received real time complaints on human rights violations during the elections from across the country.

“Our preliminary report highlights key findings from monitoring over 1300 polling units by our staff and reports and complaints received from Nigerians in our Human Rights Situation Room.

“The environment before the elections was fraught with tension arising from reports and allegations of threats from different political parties and their supporters concerning the elections” he said.

Ojukwu stated that ethnic division and hate speeches were rife in many states, including Lagos, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna and Rivers.

He added this led to the publication by the NHRC of an Advisory on Hate Speech Based on Ethnic and Religious Sentiments and 2023 General Elections in Nigeria on the 16th of March 2023.

He said In Lagos, Enugu, Ebonyi and a few other states, there were threats of violence on opposition supporters, including the use of traditional institutions, schools and the public service. (NAN)