THE Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) a coalition of over 400 civic organizations, says it is “appalled” by the recent statement made by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, that international observers who allegedly interfere in Nigeria’s elections would be returned in body bags.
The group’s Chairperson, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, made this known in a statement on Friday, expressing worry that such remarks, especially coming from a state governor with many supporters “could be used as justification for attacks on many well-meaning international observers who have come to support the democratic process in our country”.
“No matter the premise of Governor El-Rufai’s discussion on the issue of interference or intervention, the implied threat of people leaving in body bags, is totally unacceptable,” Akiyode-Afolabi stated.
“For us at TMG, whether the immediate outcome of his rhetoric is what he intended or not, our position is that violent imageries such as “body bags,” which the Governor deployed in his commentary could be used by perpetrators of electoral violence to rally those involved in organising and executing nefarious activities.
“Elites like El-Rufai, who have many options for escape will not be the victims when the unplanned effect of such rhetoric capable of inciting violence, snowballs into a crisis, which could undermine peace and security, before, during and after the polls.”
Akiyode-Afolabi further stated that asides inciting violence and undermining the integrity of the elections, El-Rufai’s comment they “could also affect participation by the electorate, especially excluded and marginalized groups, including women, and people living with disabilities”.
“TMG finds it imperative to caution all political actors to be mindful of their utterances, especially at this delicate point in the electoral process.
“This call becomes critical because in a volatile political environment such as we have in Nigeria, overzealous party faithful and supporters could take these threats as the green light from their principals to unleash violence on perceived opponents, or any other perceived as not belonging to the camp of the perpetrators.
“Importantly, the extant electoral laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria frown against all forms of incitement. Specifically, Section 128 of the Electoral Act, 2010 provides a fine of N500, 000 or a prison term of 12 months, or both for anyone inciting others to act in a disorderly manner.”
The TMG charged security agencies and the National Human Rights Commission to investigate and document such comments that constitute infractions on the electoral laws with a view to bringing the persons involved to book.