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NHRC to invite Bello, MC Oluomo over election incidents, decries violence, vote-buying



Yahaya Bello and MC Oluomo

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has concluded plans to invite the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, and Chairman of Lagos State Parks Management Committee, Musiliu Akinsanya a.k.a. MC Oluomo for questioning on issues relating to the ongoing general elections in the country.

In a statement issued on Sunday by its Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, the NHRC said the invitation of the duo stemmed from their behaviour and alleged inflammatory statements in the days leading to the elections.

Bello was reported to have ordered bulldozers to demarcate the roads linking the Kogi Central Senatorial District, a day before last month’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

The directive was interpreted as a subtle way of stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials from taking election materials to the stronghold of his rival, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, who was a senatorial candidate in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Oluomo in a viral video on March 16 asked Igbos living in Lagos to stay indoors if they would not vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Lagos State.

He had already denied threatening the Igbos in the state.

In the statement, NHRC decried the widespread voter intimidation, suppression, violence and vote-buying witnessed during Saturday’s elections in different parts of the country.

The statement read: “We are monitoring cyberspace to track hate speeches and cyberbullying. Part of the sources of our information is the cyberspace. We’ll invite MC Oluomo for questioning because his statement is worrisome.

“ I listened to the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State yesterday (Saturday), and he said they were investigating the matter. But that will not stop the Commission from carrying out its mandate. We will also invite the Kogi State governor for questioning over what happened in Kogi State.

READ ALSO: MC Oluomo denies threatening voters ahead of Lagos guber poll, police probes claim

“The environment before the election was fraught with tension, arising from reports and allegations of threats from different political parties and their supporters concerning the elections. Ethnic division and hate speeches were rife in many states, including Lagos, Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, and Rivers. This led to the publication by the NHRC of an ‘Advisory on Hate Speech Based on Ethnic and Religious Sentiments and 2023 General Elections in Nigeria,’ on March 16, 2023.

“In Lagos, Enugu, Ebonyi, and a few other states, there were threats of violence on opposition supporters, including the use of traditional institutions, schools, and the public service. The advisory highlighted areas of concern for the Commission and recommended steps to be taken by the various agencies to address the issues before, during, and after the elections.

“Compared to the Presidential and National Assembly election of February, the Governorship and House of Assembly elections witnessed a low voter turnout. In states like Niger, Kwara, Benue, and Kogi, turnout was abysmally low, and in almost all the southeastern states, the low turnout was also recorded.

“It is important to note that the NHRC in its monthly Review Forum on Human Rights and the 2023 elections warned that the consequences of the hitches and irregularities recorded in the presidential election were capable of increasing voter apathy. It is also important to note that threats of violence prior to the elections may also have played a major factor.

“Our monitors reported incidents of violence, including cases of assault, vandalism, destruction of election materials and polling units in 16 percent of the polling units monitored. There were reports from Rivers State of hoodlums attacking INEC officials and stealing the BVAS device and election materials.

“There were also reported cases of abduction of INEC Officials in Isu LGA of Imo State and attacks on INEC officials in Odoakpu Ward 7, Onitsha in Anambra State. There were also various reports of attacks on polling units from Lagos, Rivers, Nasarawa, and Enugu states. In Kano State, there was a report of violence in Rogo Ward of Sabo Gari Local Government Area that led to the death of one person.

“The Commission also received reports of disruption of elections in Ogbia Constituency 2 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. This resulted in no elections in four wards and 94 polling units. There was also a report of ballot box snatching in Enugu East LGA.”

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