By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A Non Governmental Organisation, NGO, involved in the promotion of public safety and access to justice in Nigeria, The CLEEN Foundation, has warned security agencies in the country to refrain from unwarranted use of force during the elections.
The group, in a statement on Friday, warned that reckless use of force by security agencies could be counter-productive, even as it urged Nigerians to avoid electoral infractions that could impact negatively on the conduct of the elections.
It said it had since February 16 when the elections were originally billed to commence, been monitoring and documenting incidents of electoral violence across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, through 1,600 field observers deployed across the 774 Local Government areas in the country.
“Since the last six days, we have observed some public safety and security concerns around the country leading to the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
“CLEEN Foundation uses this opportunity to notify the security agencies, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the media and the general public that the verified incident reports from our election observers across the nation reveals that election related violence has claimed lives and led to the destruction of property in twelve (12) states: Borno, Benue, Gombe, Delta, Kogi, Ondo, Ebonyi, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Zamfara and Kano States.
“Our field observers across the nation have reported incidents of election related violence including politically motivated killings, attacks by insurgents, fighting among party supporters and thugs, destruction of property and vandalization of INEC offices/property.
“The spate of violence witnessed since the election was rescheduled from the 16th of February 2019 further validates earlier findings of CLEEN Foundation’s analysis of the Election Security Threat Assessment (STA) which identified political thugs as major threats that could perpetrate electoral violence in the 2019 General Elections.
“The security threat posed by these developments will likely cause voter apathy amongst the generality of Nigerian voters who may be worried about their security and safety when they go out to vote.
“Consequently, we use this medium to call on all stakeholders to uphold their duty towards peaceful conduct of the 2019 general elections. Nigerian citizens should avoid electoral infractions that will impact negatively on the conduct of the elections.
“We particularly call on security actors to refrain from unwarranted use of force and should promptly address any incident that is likely to cause electoral violence before, during and after the elections. For a country working to strengthen the relations between the populace and security actors, the use of unwarranted force may be counter-productive.
“CLEEN Foundation will continue its partnership with key stakeholders in observing the elections and particularly the conduct of security actors on election duty through our Elections Security Support Center, ESSC, for the 2019 general elections.
“Finally, we are hopeful of a peaceful, credible, free and fair elections as we go into the 2019 General Elections”, read the statement that was signed by the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, Dr. Benson Olugbo.