Ahead of the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states scheduled for Saturday, international watchdog, Amnesty International, has called on the federal government to protect people from violence and ensure full respect for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association before, during and after the polls.
The group frowned at several instances of violence at election campaign rallies in the two states, painting a grim picture of political parties on a do-or-die approach to elections.
“The election-related violence in Bayelsa and Kogi states is deeply troubling and, if not urgently addressed, will undermine respect for human rights throughout the election period,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria in a statement sent to THISDAY last night.
According to her, “Amnesty International has received reports of supporters of some politicians violently targeting political opponents, real or perceived. The authorities must stamp out any potential impunity by ensuring these incidents are investigated and that those suspected to be responsible are brought to justice.”
She said political parties and candidates have been accusing each other of plotting to use violence during Saturday elections. “In Bayelsa State, reports say at least two people were killed, while in Kogi State there were reports of violence especially in Lokoja and other parts of the state.”
She warned that the Nigerian authorities must put in place measures to ensure that politicians and their supporters do not infringe on human rights.
“They must make clear that there is zero-tolerance for human rights violations and that anyone suspected of wrongdoing will be brought to justice.
“The authorities must fully investigate all allegations of incitement to violence and other human rights abuses before, during and after the elections and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice,” Ojigho said.
She stressed that politicians inciting violence in Bayelsa and Kogi States must be fished out and made to face justice, adding that political parties and candidates must publicly condemn any advocacy of hatred or incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
“The authorities must also ensure that international and national civil society groups and agencies that will monitor the elections are able to do so in safety,” she said