By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Ahead of the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections on November 16, 2019, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Thursday, urged the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to actively participate in order to stop human rights violation.
This was contained in a letter signed by the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju and Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, DNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, and addressed to the Chairman, NHRC, with subject ‘Preventing Human Rights Violations during the forthcoming governorship elections and the implications of using military personnel in Bayelsa and Kogi’ by drawings attention of the Commission to alleged human right abuses of Nigerians by the Nigerian Army during elections and also said it has become imperative for the Commission to step into the nation’s democratic process to protect voters from being harassed, intimidated, and vitimised.
The group was on peaceful protest on extra-judicious killings in the country at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
The letter reads in part, “The National Human Rights Commission is empowered to “deal with all matters relating to the promotion and protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” including before, during and after the elections. We are aware that the commission is doing a lot in a terribly stressed country with daily violations of rights, and we indeed commend you.
“We write to inform the commission that it has a strategic role to play in our electoral processes to proactively prevent human rights violations during the forthcoming off-season governorship elections, and most notably, to quickly appraise the danger of using military personnel in Bayelsa and Kogi State.
“The commission may recall that the last general election was characterized by violence and various forms of human rights violations as most post-election reports suggested that the military and other security agencies were used in several instances to harass, hound, intimidate and prevent voters from exercising their franchise, while the electoral officials were obstructed from carrying out their legitimate duties.
“We are worried that the Nigerian Army, saddled with the responsibility to protect our territorial integrity and ensure peace among warring parties, has become obviously partisan, undermining decades of the reputation built as a professional military body.
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“The commission must be aware of the danger posed by the increasing role of the Nigerian Military in our electoral processes and democracy, and urgently take a proactive step this time around to address their conducts and behaviours as election concerns mount.
“There is a subsisting court judgement that bars the military from being deployed for the conduct of our elections and we urge the NHRC to take this issue up with the authorities concerned in the Presidency and the Military leadership.
“We are therefore obliged to inform this commission, due to several reports and complaints that our organization has received since 2015 on the reckless activities of some surveillance contractors to oil services and oil companies in Bayelsa, many of whom are largely military officers, that soldiers should not be deployed for the conduct of election in that state and elsewhere.”
The group also in the letter mentioned incidents of alleged abuse of human rights by the military in Bayelsa State.
“We urge the commission not to wait until the people’s rights are violated before it acts, and it must be proactive and involved in ensuring that the people of Bayelsa and Kogi vote without any form of interference and intimidation.
“While there are already insinuations that there will be a massive presence of military during the election, we, therefore, urge the NHRC to step forward to prevail on the authorities from the position of human rights concern. We suggest that the Commission should be part of the regular INEC initiative signing of PEACE PACT between the major political actors in Bayelsa and Kogi to douse tension.
“The Nigerian Military is a revered and independent institution that must act responsibly and autonomously without any interference from vested interests and anti-democratic forces. They must be encouraged to face the security challenges in the North East and other parts of Nigeria where they are mostly needed.
“We await your quick response to this letter”, it added.