Rights Commission wants perpetrators of election violence prosecuted

Prof Chidi Odinkalu

The National Human Rights Commission has condemned the violence that trailed Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections and demanded the prosecution of the perpetrators.

It also canvassed credible collation and counting of votes now that the polls had been concluded.

The Chairman of the Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, said in a statement on Monday that the acts of violence resulted in fatalities have so far been reported in Akwa Ibom, Borno, Bauchi, Edo, Gombe, Lagos, Osun, Rivers, and Yobe States.

He said at the end of elections, the number of persons reported killed in these attacks and incidents was over 50.

This number, he added, included one state legislator, a community leader and two ad-hoc election staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, allegedly killed in an extremist attack in Gombe State, as well as the killing of an asset of the Nigerian armed forces in Rivers State.

Mr. Odinkalu said there were also reported cases of injuries from politically-motivated violence in Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Lagos, and Kano States as well as allegations of snatching of ballot boxes, Card Readers and related election materials in some states, including Akwa Ibom, Benue, Gombe, Imo, Niger, and Rivers States.

He said there had been isolated but very worrying reports of arson attacks on assets of INEC and the police in parts of Niger Delta while there was widespread availability of small arms and light weapons (in some parts of the country, especially in parts of Akwa Ibom, Imo, Delta, Rivers, and Benue States.

“All acts of election-related violence must be condemned unreservedly,” he said. “The affected families and communities deserve our condolences, compassion and support.

“In particular, we condemn the killing of and attacks on uniformed personnel of the security agencies as well as the killing of INEC staff. Those responsible must be held to account. Such political violence dishonours the high sense of civic pride, sacrifice and co-existence showed by Nigerians throughout this period.

“The right to life remains the foundation of all human rights, including the right to vote. Election violence undermines both the right to life and the right to vote.”

Mr. Odinkalu said now that the voting was over the best guarantee of a violence-free election is a credible count and collation, adding that it is the statutory responsibility of the INEC.
According to him, the tabulation of results from 150,000 polling units and voting points is a demanding logistical operation.

He said, “It is also usually the most difficult phase of any election process. It is natural for citizens and communities to be anxious. This is also where conscience and patriotism beckon on all the political parties, political leaders, communities, citizens and institutions to do the right thing: we must all patiently support the INEC in delivering on this task.

“The overall professionalism and performance of the security agencies in safeguarding the electoral process also deserves particular commendation.”

The Commission’s chairman said both President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress, respectively, deserved commendation for their public commitment to submit to the free and voluntarily expressed will of the Nigerian people.

He said through their conduct, Nigerians had once again showed a genuine desire to co-exist with one another and to choose their leaders freely through credible elections.

“Even as the counting and collation process remains underway, the people and government of Nigeria as well as political parties and leaders deserve to be proud of this evidence of a maturing political system and to ensure that it is sustained and preserved,” he said.

Mr. Odinkalu said the Commission remained committed to working with law enforcement and the security services of Nigeria to ensure effective investigation and accountability for all crimes of election-related violence.

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