US govt demands free and fair elections in Kogi, Bayelsa… Amnesty international wants protection for citizenry

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The statement from the United States embassy in Nigeria was short and straight to the point; but it was also very pregnant with meanings.

The statement reads in full: “The conduct of the upcoming bi-elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states is important not only for Nigeria, but also for the African continent.

“The United States Government does not support any specific candidate or party in any Nigerian election.

“The United States supports the Nigerian democratic process itself. We support a genuinely free, fair, transparent, and peaceful electoral process.

“We, and other democratic nations, will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections.”

The Amnesty international on its part says the authorities must uphold human rights during and after elections

The Nigerian authorities, it says, must protect people from violence and ensure full respect for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association before, during and after elections, Amnesty International said ahead of the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states scheduled for 16 November 2019.

Already there have been several instances of violence at election campaign rallies in both Bayelsa and Kogi 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.

“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.”

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.

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,” said Osai Ojigho.

“Politicians inciting violence in Bayelsa and Kogi must be fished out and made to face justice. 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.”

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