By Abubakar Jimoh
As part of the efforts to revisit and critically review cases of electoral violence in the 2015 general elections and advance possible pre-emptive measures against future re-occurrence, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized a ‘Review Session for Issues of Electoral Violence in the 2015 Elections’ in Abuja on Monday.
Speaking at the Session, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) recalled that though it is generally accepted that the elections were peaceful especially going by the manner in which it was conducted, the magnitude of violence before, during and after the elections must should not be ignored.
He said, “While many parts of the country remained relatively peaceful during the elections, however, some states including Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi and Ondo states recorded a significant number of violent incidents.
“INEC’s records show that there were 66 reports of violent incidents targeted at polling units, the Commission’s officials, voters and election materials. These were in Rivers State (16 incidents), Ondo (8), Cross River and Ebonyi (6 each), Akwa Ibom (5), Bayelsa (4), Lagos and Kaduna (3 each), Jigawa, Enugu, Ekiti and Osun (2 each), Katsina, Plateau, Kogi, Abia, Imo, Kano and Ogun (1 each). This is what is officially reported but you and I know that usually, the actual is much worse.
“Two impediments to the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria are electoral violence and money politics. While electoral violence creates fear leading to apathy among the electorate, undue influence of money in politics ensures that the wrong people get nominated and elected for political offices,” the Executive Director bemoaned.
Also, the Nigerian legal icon and human right activist, Barrister Femi Falana, represented by Mr. Olarewaju Suraj added that though shortly before 2015 general elections, Mr. Kofi Anan and Chief Emeka Anyaoku jointly presided over the signing of widely celebrated Non-Violence Accord by the Presidential candidates of the registered political parties in Abuja, however, the peaceful transfer of power from the ruling party to the opposition party recorded a reign of terror by armed thugs who engaged in such violence activities including the bombing and burning of party secretariats, the destruction of vehicles belonging to political parties, the harassment of political opponents, the extrajudicial killing and brutal attacks of innocent people at part congresses and primary election, and the unprovoked assault on judges.
“The crisis of impunity in the land has been compounded by the partisan involvement of the authorities of the police, the armed forces and other security agencies in the political process. Although there are adequate and elaborate provisions in the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended and the penal statutes to deal with political violence and electoral malfeasance the managers of the neo-colonial states lacks political will to bring electoral offenders to book,” he said.
Falana urged the federal government to direct National Human Rights Commission and the Nigeria Police Force to collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for immediate prosecution of all electoral offenders.
The Convener, Partners for Electoral Reform (PERM), Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu added that while the fundamental idea of elections was to provide legitimacy to political offices, he urged relevant authorities to ensure perpetrators of electoral offences do not go unpunished, promote sanity, dignity and justice in the nation’s electoral system.