The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the inspector-general of police, Mr. Usman Baba, to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate the reported attack on the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, after a rally in Katsina State.
Besides, it called on the president to order investigations into some other cases of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence across Nigeria.
It further wants the president to order the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami to name the perpetrators and expeditiously bring them to justice.
In a letter issued at the weekend and signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, the group said escalating cases of electoral intimidation, harassment and violence are fundamentally inconsistent with free and fair elections.
According to SERAP, prosecuting the cases and bringing perpetrators to justice would check the trend and encourage fair elections and full participation by Nigerians in electoral processes.
Besides, the organisation said sanitising the polity would promote rule of law and democratic tradition in the country.
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), Electoral Act and country’s international human rights obligations recognise as fundamental the right to participate in one government and free and fair elections.
“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 threat, 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 conducive environment for all contending parties to present their cases to the 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.
“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. Subsequently, another set of thugs also reportedly threw stones outside the stadium, which damaged several vehicles.
“Gunmen also recently reportedly killed Christopher Elehu, Labour Party (LP) candidate for Onuimo Local Government Area Constituency in Imo State. The gunmen also reportedly set Elehu’s house ablaze and destroyed his properties.
“These cases followed other growing reports of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence in several parts of the country, including Abia, Lagos, Imo, Kaduna and Kano states.
“Many governors are suppressing campaigns by opposition parties within their states. The growing suppression is an indicator of a slide into authoritarianism,” SERAP stated in its petition.