Pre-election violence in the country has claimed more than 52 lives already with the latest victim being the Chisco Transport Company in Lagos which lost about seven luxury buses which were burnt by supporters of All Progressives Congress who were on a political rally along Eko Bridge
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
DESPITE the peace accord signed by the political parties in Nigeria ahead of the 2015 general elections, the number of people losing their lives and property as a result of pre-election violence is increasing. The most recent is the attack on All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship rally in Okrika, River State, on Tuesday, February 17.
The incident led to the death of one policeman and left scores of people injured, including Channels Television reporter. The violence started with three explosions and sporadic gunfire which ended the rally abruptly.
Prior to the Okrika violence, the headquarters of Chisco Transport Limited in Lagos, was burnt down by supporters of the APC on Sunday, February 8, who were on a political rally. About seven vehicles were destroyed although unconfirmed reports said that more than 25 luxury buses and trucks belonging to the company were burnt. The incident took place when some hoodlums saw a billboard of President Jonathan hanging in a compound next to Chisco’s. They threw petrol bomb into the premises of the transport company in apparent protest against President Goodluck Jonathan’s poster.
The arsonists were part of the APC campaign train at their political rally along Eko Bridge. The building harbouring Jonathan’s billboard belongs to the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, a federal government agency sharing a common fence with the leading transport company. Unfortunately, for the transport company, it did not insure its premises but had only third party insurance for its vehicles.
Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State governor, visited the premises of the transport company on Thursday, February 19, to sympathise with Chidi Anyaegbu, the owner of the Company. Realnews also learnt that President Goodluck Jonathan, who was on a two-day working visit to Lagos, wanted to visit the transport company but Anyaegbu asked him not to come that he would handle the situation because he did not want to politicise what has happened and cause more problem for himself in the future and his business empire in Lagos, where he has lived for the past 39 nine years.
Two weeks before the above incidents happened, the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, had said that more than 58 people have been killed in election- related violence in 22 states from December 3, 2014 to date. Chidi Odinkalu, chairman, governing council of the commission, in a report entitled: “Pre-election Report and Advisory on Violence in Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections,” in Abuja, said within 50 days from December 3, 2014, the commission had confirmed 61 incidences of election violence with the majority of the cases recorded in three key economic and politically significant states.
“In Lagos, we have tracked at least 11 incidences producing 22 dead people for each incident, an average of two people killed over a span of just 52 days. In Kaduna State, we have three incidents and nine killings; Rivers has six incidents, including the detonation of explosives and attacks on courts. This degree of pre-election violence is unacceptable, we have seen too much blood and this must be stopped,” he said.
According to Odinkalu, if this continues, it will lead the country into more trouble and so this is more than a report, it is an advisory because it calls on all the leaders to rise to the challenge. He said the political leaders must send a message loud and clear to their teeming supporters that the forthcoming election was not a call to battle but a contest between brothers and sisters. “On March 28 and April 11, Nigeria will for the 5th time in 16 years and the 8th time since independence in 1960, undertake the closest and most competitive election in its 54-year history. This is an advisory addressed to Nigeria’s leaders, politicians, communities, citizens and friends. It explains why the country must turn the page on a long and worsening history of election violence.”
The commission had received 10 petitions for adjudication in relation to election-related violence. He, however, said the commission had established an Election Violence Incidence Centre, EVIC, to enable it collate information on election violence and seek intervention where necessary or ensure accountability. According to him, the commission will not hesitate to mention the names of anybody found instigating or perpetrating electoral violence. “If we continue on that trajectory, this report demonstrates that it will not only endanger Nigeria and the human rights of its citizens but the peace and security of an entire region,” Odinkalu said.
According to him, if elections are not violence free, we will be inviting the International Criminal Court into the affairs of our country. He further said that Nigerians must be able to vote in peace, as the right to vote was a human right and citizens, through the exercise of their right, conferred legitimacy on their government.
It is hoped that the general elections proper will not be marred by worsening political violence in the country.