NHRC Says Gubernatorial And House Of Assembly Elections Fraught With Irregularities…To Invite Yahaya Bello, MC Oluomo Over Hate Speech

By Bukar Bolori

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has lamented that Saturday’s Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections across the nation was fraught with so many irregularities ranging from attacks on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials, vote buying, violence at polling units, attack on journalists, and cases of death.

Presenting a preliminary report on the election, the Executive Secretary, Chief Tony Ojukwu on Sunday said both Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and Chairman of Chairman of Lagos State Parks Management Committee, Musiliu Akinsanya popularly known as MC Oluomo would be invited to explain their roles in alleged hate speech shortly before the election.

Ojukwu who also disclosed that the Commission was going to investigate the attack on Arise News TV crew in Lagos, called for investigation and prosecution of cases of electoral crime across the country during the election.

The Executive Secretary said as part of its mandate to promote and protect human rights, NHRC deployed 600 staff Human Right Monitors across the 36 states for the Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections, and also through the Human Rights Situation Room closely monitored the elections and received real time complaints on human rights violations during the elections from across the country.

He said: “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 Commission during the elections process monitored among others issues relating to the conduct of law enforcement and security personnel, hate speech, election related Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) and vote buying.”

He added that: “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. ethnic division and hate speeches were rife in many states, including Lagos, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna and Rivers. 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.

“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. The advisory highlighted areas of concern for the Commission and recommended steps to be taken by the various agencies to address the issues before, during and after the elections.”

He said compared to the Presidential and National Assembly Election of February, the Governorship and House of Assembly elections witnessed a low voter turnout. in states like Niger, Kwara, Benue and Kogi, the turn out was abysmally low and in almost all the south eastern states, low turn out was also recorded.

He said: “It is important to note that the NHRC in its monthly Review Forum on Human Rights and the 2023 Elections has warned that the consequences of the hitches and irregularities recorded in the Presidential election were capable of increasing voter apathy. It is also important to note that threats of violence prior to the elections may also have played a major factor.”

Ojukwu said: “Our monitors reported incidents of violence, including cases of assault, vandalism, destruction of election materials and polling units in 16% of the polling units monitored.

“There were reports from Rivers state of hoodlums attacking the INEC officials and stealing the BVAS device and election materials. There was also reported cases of abduction of INEC Officials in Isu LGA of Imo state and attack on INEC officials in Odoakpu Ward 7, Onitsha in Anambra state“.

There were also various reports of attacks on polling units from Lagos, Rivers, Nasarawa and Enugu states.

In Kano state there was a report of violence in Rogo ward of Sabo Gari Local Government Area that led to the death of one person.

The Commission also received reports of disruption of elections in Ogbia Constituency 2 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa state. This resulted in no elections in fours wards and 94 polling units. There was also a report of ballot box snatching in Enugu East LGA.

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

“The Commission received reports of the killing of 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 the Nigeria Police Force should arrest and prosecute all verified cases of political violence including attacks and snatching of ballot boxes and materials, calling on all law enforcement and security agents in the remaining unconcluded ongoing elections to maintain political neutrality and impartiality, while urging INEC in conducting future off-cycle elections to continue to ensure transparency and integrity in the electoral processes.

He said the Commission will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available, asking all relevant authorities to take necessary actions to address the issues raised in the preliminary report to ensure that future elections are free, fair, and peaceful.

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