Nigeria2015: Hate speech on the rise – Human Rights Commission

Prof Chidi Odinkalu

The National Human Rights Commission has said that the run-up to Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential election has seen a rise in hate speech, and a worrisome footprint of an election-related violence.

The chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, in a statement said the commission had issued a report and advisory on election-related violence in Nigeria’s 2015 general elections.

Mr. Odinkalu said the Report and Advisory itemized scores of incidents of pre-election killings and violence affecting 22 States of the federation.

He added that in the last six weeks, the footprint of pre-election violence has spread beyond the 22 states and election-related violence in some form has been reported in nearly all the states of Nigeria.

Mr. Odinkalu noted that the Report and Advisory also identified Kaduna, Lagos and Rivers states as the three most worrying trends and locations predictive of a high likelihood of significant violence during the 2015 elections.

He said the visits to the various states confirmed the assessments in the Report and Advisory, stating that certain patterns were very evident from these visits to these locations which predisposed them to a potential for significant election-related violence.

He added that such related violence could be termed as militias and gangs, small arms and light weapons, hate speech, campaign bill board’s wars amongst others.

He said these developments were troubling, as they presented a pattern of challenges that all participants in these elections, and other entities interested in Nigeria’s 2015 general elections should plan for and address, especially in the hours immediately following announcement of results.

Mr. Odinkalu added that the commission had addressed recommendations previously to all these entities.

“We have looked again at those recommendations and believe they remain well-founded and should be taken seriously, the right to vote deserves to be fully protected in these elections,” he said. “To do so, we must accord primacy to the right to life.”

He said the message of the National Peace Committee in support of peaceful elections must be complemented with a clear and credible accountability threat, stating that those who endanger human life in pursuit of political power must be held to account.

“This requires us to keep and preserve records and evidence of the infractions committed as well as of those who do them,” he said. “As we go into the elections also, we must call on the parties and candidates to refrain from any conduct that could contribute to raising tensions.”

He said Nigerians must accept to abide by the outcome of the elections, stating that the only winner in these elections should be the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

For all the candidates and their parties, he said, irrespective of the outcome, these elections are a call to service.

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