Elections: Probe attack on Obi, SERAP tells Buhari
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), “to direct the Inspector-General of Police Usman Baba to promptly, thoroughly, and transparently investigate the reported attack on the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, after a rally in Katsina State, and other cases of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence across the country.”
SERAP also urged Buhari to “direct Baba and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, to name and shame any politician and other perpetrators of election-related intimidation, harassment, and violence, and to ensure that they are promptly brought to justice.”
SERAP urged him to “caution state governors to end reported suppression of campaigns by opposition parties within their states, and to ensure the security and safety of opposition candidates, members and supporters.”
The PUNCH had reported how Obi was attacked after a rally in Katsina with heavy stones while on his way to the airport, according to his campaign team in a statement signed by its media head, Diran Onifade, on Tuesday.
SERAP said the attack was coming on the heels of reported 339 incidents of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence across the country in 2022.
In a letter dated 28 January, 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “Escalating cases of election-related intimidation, harassment, and violence are fundamentally inconsistent with the principle of free and fair elections.”
According to SERAP, “Investigating and prosecuting these cases, and bringing perpetrators to justice would stop further violence, facilitate free and fair elections, and encourage Nigerians to freely exercise their right to vote.”
SERAP said, “Investigating and prosecuting these cases would also promote and ensure the rule of law and democratic tradition in the country.”
The letter partly read in part, “The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, and the country’s international human rights obligations recognise as fundamental the right to participate in one’s government, and the free and fair elections that implement it.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“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 mean elections conducted under conditions that enable voters to cast their votes as they wish purely on their own accord without any threats, intimidation, harassment or violence before, during and after elections.”
“Free and fair elections are indispensable for the success of any democracy. But free and fair elections cannot take place in an environment characterised by recurring cases of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence.
“Fairness means providing equal opportunities and a conducive environment for all the contending parties to present their cases to a public which, in turn, may make a free choice.
“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.
“SERAP is concerned about the growing impunity for election-related intimidation, harassment and violence.
“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 right to free and fair elections.”