Prosecute poll abusers, Human Rights Watch tells Abuja
LAGOS GLOBAL watchdog Human Rights Watch called on Nigerian authorities on Sunday to establish a special commission to investigate and prosecute election-related abuses and violence.
“Nigeria has a history of violent and deeply flawed elections.
At least 300 people were killed in violence linked to the last general elections in 2007,” HRW said in a joint statement with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
The groups said an Electoral Offences Commission would investigate and prosecute offences under the Electoral Act, including incitement, the use or threat of violence, bribery, theft of ballot materials and falsification of election results.
Since November, more than 50 people have been killed in violence linked to political party primaries and election campaigns and the level of violence is expected to increase in the run-up to the April poll, the statement said.
“It is time for Nigeria to break with the past and to ensure that violence, intimidation, and fraud don’t undermine the credibility of the upcoming elections,” said senior lawyer Dafe Akpedeye, who is chairman of the Election Working Group of the NBA, in the statement.
The groups also accused the police of complicity or ignoring acts of violence and ballot stealing perpetrated by corrupt politicians.
“The police were often present during such incidents but frequently turned a blind eye or, at times, participated in abuses.
The police have the sole power to investigate these crimes, yet no one has been held accountable,” the statement said.
“Setting up a properly resourced Electoral Offences Commission... will send a clear signal to candidates and political parties that people may be held accountable for any election- related abuses,” it said.
The Electoral Reform Committee, established by Nigeria’s late president Umaru Yar’Adua, following the flawed 2007 elections, found that not a single Nigerian had been convicted and punished for electoral offences since the nation’s independence in 1960, it added.
“The police lack the political will and independence to carry out investigations of election-related offenses,” it stated.