Abuja, 30 March, 2015: Nigerians from all walks of life went to the polls on Saturday, March 28, 2015 to vote for their leaders. Notwithstanding several hitches and some frustrations, citizens turned out in large numbers and showed tremendous tenacity, patience and tolerance. All through the voting process and across the country, Nigerians exercised their constitutional right to elect their leaders with civic pride.
The voting process was not without some challenges, including pockets of violence and security breaches. From different parts of the country, there have been incidents, reports and allegations of various forms of violence, including some reported attacks by extremists in some parts of north eastern Nigeria designed to frustrate the exercise of the franchise. Some highlights include:
· Acts of violence resulting in fatalities have so far been reported in Akwa Ibom, Borno, Bauchi, Edo, Gombe, Lagos, Osun, Rivers, and Yobe States.
· At the end of yesterday, the number of persons reported killed in these attacks and incidents is over 50. This number includes one state legislator, a community leader and two (2) ad-hoc election staff of the I Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), allegedly been killed in an extremist attack in Gombe State, as well as the killing of an asset of the Nigerian armed forces in Rivers State.
· There were also reported cases of injuries from politically-motivated violence in Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Lagos, and Kano States as well as allegations of snatching of ballot boxes, Card Readers and related election materials in some states, including Akwa Ibom, Benue, Gombe, Imo, Niger, and Rivers States.
· There have also been isolated but very worrying reports of arson attacks on assets of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in parts of the Niger Delta.
· Similarly, we have also noted widespread availability of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in some parts of the country, especially in parts of Akwa Ibom, Imo, Delta, Rivers, and Benue States.
All acts of election-related violence must be condemned unreservedly. The affected families and communities deserve our condolences, compassion and support.
In particular, we condemn the killing of and attacks on uniformed personnel of the security agencies as well as the killing of INEC staff. Those responsible must be held to account. Such political violence dishonors the high sense of civic pride, sacrifice and co-existence showed by Nigerians throughout this period.
The right to life remains the foundation of all human rights, including the right to vote. Election violence undermines both the right to life and the right to vote.
Now that the voting is over, the best guarantee of a violence-free election is a credible count and collation. This is the statutory responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The tabulation of results from 150,000 polling units and voting points is a demanding logistical operation. It is also usually the most difficult phase of any election process. It is natural for citizens and communities to be anxious. This is also where conscience and patriotism beckon on all the political parties, political leaders, communities, citizens and institutions to do the right thing: we must all patiently support the INEC in delivering on this task.
The overall professionalism and performance of the security agencies in safeguarding the electoral process also deserves particular commendation.
Both President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, and General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, equally deserve commendation for their public commitment to submit to the free and voluntarily expressed will of the Nigerian people.
Through their conduct, Nigerians have once again showed a genuine desire to co-exist with one another and to choose their leaders freely through credible elections. Even as the counting and collation process remains underway, the people and government of Nigeria as well as political parties and leaders deserve to be proud of this evidence of a maturing political system and to ensure that it is sustained and preserved.
The National Human Rights Commission remains committed to working with law enforcement and the security services of Nigeria to ensure effective investigation and accountability for all crimes of election-related violence.
STATEMENT BY CHIDI ANSELM ODINKALU, PH.D, CHAIRMAN GOVERNING COUNCIL, NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION.
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