The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba to investigate the reported attack on Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi following a rally in Katsina State, as well as other cases of election-related intimidation, harassment, and violence across the federation.
It also wants him to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice as soon as possible.
In the aftermath of 339 other similar violent incidents in 2022, Obi was reportedly pelted on his way to the airport.
The group stated in a letter issued over the weekend and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, that increasing cases of electoral intimidation, harassment, and violence are fundamentally inconsistent with free and fair elections.
According to SERAP, prosecuting the cases and bringing the perpetrators to justice would put a stop to the trend while also encouraging fair elections and full participation of Nigerians in electoral processes.
Furthermore, the organization stated that sanitizing the political system would promote the rule of law and democratic tradition in the country.
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), Electoral Act, and the country’s international human rights obligations recognize as fundamental the right to participate in one government and free and fair elections,” according to the correspondence.
“Election-related intimidation, harassment and violence are grave violations of the rights of Nigerians to participate in the democratic process and free and fair elections, as well as a range of other human rights.
“Free and fair elections” are those that are held in conditions that allow voters to vote freely and without fear of intimidation, harassment, or violence before, during, or after the election.
“Free and fair elections are required for any democracy to succeed. However, free and fair elections cannot be held in an environment marked by recurring instances of election-related intimidation, harassment, and violence.
“Fairness” means “providing equal opportunities and a conducive environment for all contending parties to present their cases to the public, who can then make an informed decision.”
“In a political climate of suppression of opposition parties’ campaigns and other election-related intimidation, harassment and violence, the electorate will not feel free to exercise their right to vote.
“Acting swiftly to address the brazen impunity for election-related intimidation, harassment and violence would also send a strong message to politicians and non-state actors that your government would not tolerate any action that would undermine the people’s rights to free and fair elections.
“Obi was said to be on his way to the airport when some hoodlums and political thugs reportedly attacked the car he was riding in with stones from his driver’s side, causing substantial damage to the vehicle. Following that, another group of thugs allegedly threw stones outside the stadium, damaging several vehicles.
“Gunmen are also said to have killed Christopher Elehu, the Labour Party (LP) candidate for Onuimo Local Government Area Constituency in Imo State. The gunmen allegedly set fire to Elehu’s house and destroyed his belongings.”
“These cases came on the heels of other growing reports of election-related intimidation, harassment, and violence in several parts of the country, including Abia, Lagos, Imo, Kaduna, and Kano states,” SERAP added.
“Many governors are suppressing opposition party campaigns within their states. The increasing repression is an indicator of authoritarianism.”