Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Seven months after the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election was held, Amnesty International (AI) has said it will launch an investigation into the electoral violence that characterised the election, which led to loss of lives and also forced 600 persons into the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Southern Ijaw.
The representative of the international rights group, Attah Ikide, made this yesterday in Abuja during a public presentation of a report carried out by the Save Ijaw Nation Group titled; “Unreported Cases of Human Rights Abuses and 2015/2016 Bayelsa Governorship Election Violence.”
According to him, “I have not gone through this report, but if like he said, some of the pictures that we saw on the Internet are the pictures in here, then this is something that Amnesty International will take seriously.”
Ikide added: “When you contacted me, I immediately called our United Kingdom office and I informed them that there was a report coming out; what now happens is that when we have a report like this, we take it to our research unit and they will look into it and investigate it
“It’s a long time I saw something like this in Nigeria, but most of the time, the reason AI will not take up some of the human rights cases in Nigeria is because some of those cases are not well researched, if you look at this report, it is well researched, a lot of pictures in here, witnesses, evidence, AI needs more of these things.
“This will be the first comprehensive report AI will be receiving from southern Nigeria, so we are going to take it seriously, I promise you, I am going to take this to our people in UK, they will engage the Amnesty group here,” he said.
Earlier in his remarks, the Secretary of the group, Mr. Olufemi Akindele, said that having realised that a lot of things were unreported, despite the numerous reports made by victims, and despite the numerous arrests made on the days of the election in December and January, the group took it upon itself to conduct a comprehensive investigation on it.
He noted that the report wouldn’t have been necessary if the federal and the state government had taken a decisive action to forestall further bloodbath in subsequent election.
Akindele stated: “We went back to Bayelsa State in February and we discovered that there were even Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Bayesla and what was the reason? The communities were not invaded by Boko Haram, nor the conventional Niger Delta militants, we realised that these people became Displaced as a result of that same election that happened in December and January.
“We took it upon ourselves and we visited various communities where there were cases of violence, we had personal interviews, we took phone numbers, we took pictures and we did practical on-the-spot assessment of what happened between December 2015 and January 2016,” he added.
Akindele stressed that a total number of 200 opposition supporters could not be accounted for presently several months after the election was held.
“A lot of reports were made, documented but the State government never took any action, particularly the Police, the government kept quiet as if everything is normal and we felt it is not going to be in the interest of our democracy for this to continue, not only because there are future elections in the country but because the lives of our people must be name more important to the aspiration of any politician in this country,” he noted.
Akindele emphasised that the president needs to speak up and key it be known that electoral violence will not be condoned in this country, adding that his body language matters at this time as it would go a long way in curbing the trend.
“We are going to ensure that the documented is presented to every recognised human rights organisation in the world like Amnesty International, National Human Rights Commission, and other international rights groups,” he assured.