by Fidelis Mac-Leva
Between December 2014 and January 2015, no fewer than 58 people lost their lives, while about a hundred others were injured during political campaigns and other events in the buildup to the 2015 general elections. The number is increasing. While nobody has been held accountable to serve as a deterrent, analysts say this poses a greater threat to the peace and security of the country ahead of the forthcoming polls.
An analysis, contained in ‘a pre-election report and advisory on violence in Nigeria’s 2015 general elections’ issued by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nigeria, showed that 58 deaths were recorded with about hundred persons injured during incidents of election violence during campaigns and elections in the build up to the forthcoming general polls.
The report, which was conducted in 22 States over a period of two months (December 3, 2014 -January 31, 2015), indicated that the south-south zone recorded the highest cases with 28 deaths, while the north-west recorded 11 deaths.
The north-east recorded 9 deaths, while the south-south recorded 8 deaths. The north central had a high rate of injured victims but recorded no deaths, while the south-east recorded 2 deaths with a high rate of injured victims.
In the north-west, which had the highest death rate, three cases were recorded in Kaduna State with 9 deaths, while Kano recorded two incidents with two deaths. Katsina recorded two incidents with no deaths, while Jigawa and Kebbi States recorded one incident each with no deaths recorded.
In the North-east zone, which had nine deaths recorded, six pre-election violence related incidents were recorded in Gombe (3), Bauchi (2) and Taraba (1) while 5 deaths were recorded in Gombe and 4 in Taraba with no death recorded in Bauchi state.
In the South-South, the highest number of incidents was recorded in Rivers State with high rate of injuries but no death. Akwa Ibom and Edo States recorded two deaths from two incidents each. Bayelsa State recorded only one incident of pre-election violence within the period in review with 3 deaths.
In the North-Central zone, no deaths were recorded even though 4 incidents were recorded in Plateau state and one in Niger State with several people injured.
In all the incidents recorded, only a handful of persons were arrested by the police in some places, especially during episodes involving alleged attacks on President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign convoy. For instance, 24 people were reportedly arrested in Katsina in connection with the protests that greeted Jonathan’s visit there. In Gombe, the police command had banned the use of motorcycles in the State capital because of the campaign visit of President Jonathan and his rival General Muhammadu Buhari on February 2 and 3, 2015 respectively.
Consequently, the NHRC expressed concerns over the spate of pre-election violence in the country, saying it was a pointer to post-election violence. “The footprint of violence appears to extend to all the major population centres and migration arteries and intersections linking different parts of Nigeria. From the information monitored and analyzed by the Commission, Lagos (southwest), Kaduna (north-west) and Rivers (south-south) States present the three most worrying trends and locations predictive of a high likelihood of significant violence during the 2015 elections”, the commission’s pre-election report stated.
The Commission’s chairman, Professor Chidi Anslem Odinkalu said the NHRC received 12 different petitions on different election related cases across the country, including Ekiti State where the opposition APC had petitioned the commission, alleging human rights violations against the Governor, Ayodele Fayemi. Odinkalu, however, lamented that the immunity clause in the Nigerian constitution being enjoyed by Governors and other politicians holding political offices was making it difficult for them to be prosecuted against hate speech and other related acts of election violence.
On December 31, 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the senatorial seat of Lagos West, Mr Segun Adewale, allegedly went berserk when he reportedly attacked Mr Solomon Adeola, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). On that fateful day at about 7:15pm, the PDP candidate was said to have besieged the campaign office of his political opponent in Ikeja, with policemen and political thugs. Upon arrival, the APC supporters with whom Adeola was having a meeting were said to have escaped. Adewale, who was reportedly wearing a bullet proof jacket and armed with a pump action rifle, released “a volley of shots into the office” as he dared Adeola to come out and face him. At the end of the incident, the gate was said to have been damaged as well as the rear windshield of Adeola’s Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep that was parked inside the office premises. Equally, bullet pellets were said to have damaged the exterior of Adeola’s office.
In a separate incident, six persons were reportedly killed in a clash between rival groups at the venue of a political campaign rally in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State on Sunday Febuary 1, 2015, while several others were injured in the clash. Dangerous weapons used were recovered by the police. Trouble was said to have started when some armed persons in a campaign trail along Apasa street shot and killed a middle aged man identified as Raheem, sparking a violent protest from members of the rival group on nearby Akindele Street. The incident was confirmed by the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Kenneth Nwosu who, however, said only two persons were feared killed.
Earlier on December 3, 2014, one person was reportedly shot and wounded in the primary held by the Lagos state chapter of the APC at Apena in the Ebute – Metta, Lagos Mainland Constituency 1, where the battle to pick who becomes the party’s candidate in the state House of Assembly poll had pitched an incumbent Bashiru Oloto against Oladele Adekanye, the immediate past chairman of Mainland LGA, who defeated the incumbent member Oloto. The violence was said to have erupted, following the announcement of the result by the returning officer as the camp of the loser complained of manipulation in favour of the winner.
On that same fateful day, there was a breakdown of order at the national secretariat of the PDP in Abuja when the aggrieved aspirants under the platform of the party from Rivers State and party supporters invaded the secretariat and sealed it off with threats of violence.
The above incidents recorded in Lagos and Abuja, the nation’s capital, are just few out of the several cases of pre-election violence that have been recorded in different parts of the country in the build up to the 2015 general elections.
DT on March 15th