A GROUP of civil society organisations in Nigeria, under the Joint Action Civil Society Coalition, has urged the federal government to ensure adequate protection of lives and properties during the Saturday, November 16 gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is set to conduct elections in both states in less than 24 hours.
The CSOs said events already indicate that the electoral processes would be marred by violence, therefore urged all parties to respect the rule of law.
“We note in particular the spate of violent attacks and killings in Bayelsa state and call on all stakeholders to make concerted efforts to mitigate further losses as the elections reach flag off,” the statement, signed by Tosin Gbolasere and Chikanne Ezigbo, said.
“From all indications, it would seem that this set of elections may repeat our reoccurring history characterised by violent pre and post-election episodes, resulting in the wanton destruction of lives and property.
“Given the loss of at least 521 lives in our recently concluded general elections of 23rd February and 9th March, 2019, the need to address early warning signs of violence should have been apparent to the Nigerian government and its security apparatus, and should have served as a learning curve to urgently address security threats and deescalate tensions in both states.”
According to a report by SBM Intelligence, which analyses sensitive political and social issues, up to 626 people were killed between November 2018 and March 2019 in connection to the general elections earlier this year. Other organisations have, however, stated fewer figures.
The Joint Action Civil Society Coalition also lamented cases arson and death in Bayelsa as well as clashes between members of rival political parties.
The group noted that “violence has persisted and is spiralling out of control” despite heavy security deployments in the states.
They called on the Federal Government “to live up to its primary responsibility of protecting lives and property and promoting the welfare of all who live in Nigeria by ensuring maximum security of electorates and observers.”
The coalition also urged the government to take steps in ending impunity, which it said has often trailed cases of electoral violence, and to ensure security operatives are held to account for breaches of peace within their jurisdiction.
“All functions must be exercised with respect for human rights and the rule of law,” the statement read.
“Finally, we salute the courage and gallantry of our electoral and security agents who have continued to uphold our peace and unity in extremely difficult circumstances, and sometimes under extreme provocation.
“We assure them that their efforts are not in vain and that Nigerians applaud their efforts. Respect for the rules of engagement will never go out of fashion and will be their saving grace for legitimacy with the very people they have sworn to protect.”
Similarly, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) on Friday, raised alarm about incidents of vote-buying in Kogi State. It called on the electoral commission to monitor the activities more closely and remove all compromised officials from the process.