A coalition of over 80 human rights organizations under the aegis of Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room in Abuja on Thursday raised fears over likely violence in the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections with a call on security agencies to act quickly especially in some flashpoints.
The organization which identified Lagos, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Kano states as flashpoints said it would deploy 2,340 election observers, including 131 Persons Living with Disabilities, with at least three election observers in each of the 774 local government areas, excluding the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The Convener of the NCSSR, Ene Obi, stated these while reading a preliminary statement on the pre-election environment ahead of the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
The event was also attended by co-conveners, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu and Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre who was also a former Convener of NCSSR, Clement Nwankwo.
Situation Room said it expected that INEC had taken lessons from the challenges experienced during the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25 2023, and “made adequate arrangements to forestall the recurrence of the gaps observed during the elections.”
“Situation Room also expects that the glitches that led to the malfunctioning of the INEC Result Viewing Portal have been resolved, and that the issues that occasioned the inability of the commission to conduct elections in some polling units and late opening of polls in others have been addressed.
“In particular, the Situation Room calls on INEC to address the shortages in the number of ad hoc staff available for the elections, make adequate transportation arrangements, conduct additional training for the ad hoc staff, and promptly reconfigure and deploy the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and other materials required for the elections and most importantly, ensure that it communicates in a timely manner to the public on any challenges or changes made to the electoral process”, the statement said.
Obi said, “Your fears are my fears. That’s why the security agencies must act. We are not seeing actions, even where people have been indicted for election violence. We should all stand up for Nigeria.
“We are asking the people of Rivers State to maintain peace. The few women on the ballot papers should be protected in this weekend’s election. Security agencies should protect women and should ensure that every vote counts.
“Ahead of the elections, the security situation across the country appears tense, with reports of violence, kidnap and assassination in several States including Lagos, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Kano. As such, Situation Room reminds the Nigeria Police and other security agencies that they have a primary responsibility to guarantee the safety and security of election officials as well as other election stakeholders, including voters, polling agents, election observers, the media and service providers.
“Security agencies should take adequate measures to forestall the recurrence of acts of voter suppression, disruption of voting, and outright violence experienced in some places during the Presidential and National Assembly elections. Furthermore, the Situation Room calls on the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to ensure that they are non-partisan, professional and will avoid any actions capable of being interpreted as acting in support of any political interest.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission should communicate with Nigerians. We are saying, let the process work. Nigerians should hold INEC accountable.
“For this second leg of the 2023 general election, the Situation Room will deploy 2,340 election observers, with at least three election observers per Local Government Area in every State of the federation excluding the Federal Capital Territory. This number includes 131 Persons with Disabilities.”
While admitting that circulation of smear campaigns and desperation had intensified in the election particularly on social media, Situation Room specifically called on political parties to “conduct themselves in a peaceful manner and to discourage violence by their supporters.”
“Parties are reminded that there is a need to respect and abide by the peace accord signed by them. Situation Room will be tracking violent incidents across the States. Perpetrators and masterminds will be called out for investigations and punitive measures in line with Section 92 (5-8) of the Electoral Act 2022,” Obi said.