General Elections: Nigeria May Turn to Killing Field, Odinkalu Warns

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Chidi Odinkalu

• Politicians stock-piling arms, ex-militant leaders reveal

Segun James in Lagos and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

A former chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, has raised the alarm that there were enough arms in the hands of private citizens in the country to create a killing field if next month’s elections are not free and fair.

This is coming as ex-militant leaders in the Niger Delta region have expressed worries that politicians are stockpiling large arms and ammunition to unleash terror and mayhem against suspected political opponents with sole aim of rigging next month’s elections.

Speaking yesterday on the Morning Show of Arise News, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper, Odinkalu said his greatest fear is violence, adding that this can only be averted if the police, the biggest security outfit in the country, is seen to be neutral in the activities leading to the election.

“If the security services don’t behave responsibly and with neutrality, there are enough arms in private hands in the country to create a free-for-all killing field and I don’t think anybody should pray for that,” he said.

On the issue of human rights abuses in the country, he said even though he cannot really confirm if human rights abuses have increased under President Muhammadu Buhari, he is however, sure that disobedience to court orders have increased under the present government.

He described it as ironic that people who disobey court orders will one day run to the same courts to enforce their rights when they are out of government.

Odinkalu said there is nothing like fake news, but false news which he said that most government agencies like the military and even the Minister of Information engage in.

He lamented that when these false news are challenged by citizens, they are accused of not being patriotic enough.

He however insisted that if the government can stop these false news, the people would be at a point where they can believe the information the government or its agencies push out to them.

Commenting on the electoral guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he said the guidelines was not spectacularly different from that of 2015, except for some minor modifications.

Meanwhile, ex-militants leaders in the Niger Delta region have expressed worries that politicians are stockpiling large arms and ammunition to unleash terror and mayhem against suspected political opponents with sole aim of rigging the elections.

The ex-agitators under the aegis of Ex-agitators Leadership Forum, disclosed that through their intelligence gathering, they have identified some locations where these arms are kept and called on all ex-militants not to allow themselves to be used by desperate politicians as thugs to undermine the elections.

In a signed press statement read before journalists yesterday in Benin City, Edo State, the forum’s National Adviser and spokesperson, Walter Serete, and Comrade Godstime Ogidigba, respectively, noted that what the region need right now is sustainable peace and development.

According to them, “Most politicians had used the Christmas festive period as an avenue to smuggle illegal firearms and ammunition into the region as part of preparations for the general polls.”

“We have resolved to carefully trace the locations, where they are kept and the politicians behind this criminal act after thorough information gathering. We will expose them to the whole world,” the statement said.