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'Address Violence Before Feb Polls' - Rights Groups to Nigeria

FILE – Offices belonging to Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission are burnt after an attack in Imo state, Dec. 12, 2022
FILE – Offices belonging to Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission are burnt after an attack in Imo state, Dec. 12, 2022

Activists and human rights organizations are calling on Nigerian authorities to urgently address the “thick veil of violence” that is surrounding the upcoming elections that are scheduled for February 25 in the West African nation.

A report released Monday by the Human Rights Watch that is titled Nigeria: Impunity, Insecurity Threaten Elections said the West African nations February 25 polls are under threat and that it is important that outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari put in place security measures that will stop the ongoing attacks on electoral institutions and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Nigerian activists that are stationed in the capital of Imo state, Owerri, said they have witnessed electoral officials being attacked repeatedly by secessionist groups, who have announced intentions to disrupt the upcoming elections.

“There is a strong sense of fear among voters,” said an activist who spoke to HWR, adding, “people want to vote but this is severely challenged by the security issues which there appears to be little or no commitment to address.”

Anietie Ewang, the HRW’s Nigerian researcher echoed sentiments passed by local activists and called on authorities to install secure systems that would allow citizens of the West African nation to safely cast their ballots on February 25.

“It is important for the authorities to swiftly restore public confidence in their ability to hold those responsible for electoral violence accountable and ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians,” said Ewang.

Ewang’s sentiments are echoed by Samson Itodo, the director of YIAGA Africa, a Nigerian non-governmental organization focused on promoting democracy, human rights, and civic engagement in the West African nation.

“The attacks on INEC’s offices impedes on INEC’s ability to conduct elections,” said Itodo, adding, “this is where we have a major source of concern.”

Festus Okoye, a representative of INEC said the elections will continue as scheduled and that the electoral body has received assurances from several security agencies of guaranteed security.

“Various security agencies have assured us that they have the capacity to secure the country enough to allow us to conduct a good election,” said Okoye.

“We will keep on liaising with them and receiving security advice from them, as we gear for the elections,” he added.

Information from the report came from statements released by the Human Rights Watch and VOA’s Timothy Obiezu