By Yemisi Izuora-Lagos
The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) has joined the global human rights community to mark ‘Human Rights Day’, today, December 10, 2014.
The theme for this year’s human rights day is ‘Human Rights 365’, highlighting the notion that every day is a Human Rights Day.
NOPRIN supports the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times, is entitled to a full range of human rights; that every day is a Human Rights Day and that human rights belong equally to each one of us and bind us together.
‘We wish to seize the opportunity of this day to draw the attention of the Nigerian government and the public to what we perceive as the obstacles to the peaceful conduct of credible elections in 2015’ Okey Nwanguma National Co-ornator of the Network said.
.Nwanguma listed the obstacles which must be addressed and removed if Nigerians are to enjoy their fundamental right to participate in government, to include, Lack of internal democracy within political parties which manifest in widespread allegations of imposition of ‘godfather anointed’ candidates by political party leaders, parallel primaries, intra party violence as witnessed during some of the political party primaries. The misgivings generated by these compromised and contentious primaries, if not democratically and satisfactorily resolved, may spill into and violently mar the general elections, Lack of neutrality; partisanship by police/security services.
He said elections will be marred if the police, state security service and other security agencies continue to act partially and in deference to one political party to the disadvantage of other parties. Security agencies should not serve the interest of any particular political party or candidates but should provide equal protection and justice to all adding that security resources must be deployed appropriately and effectively, and informed by adequate pre-election security threat assessments.
Speaking further he said pre- election, during election and post election violence is a big challenge adding that interparty political violence during campaign rallies and other political gathering; intimidation of political rivals and supporters of rival parties or candidates in order to gain undue advantage must be checked
‘These have remained the constant features of our electoral process. Efforts must be made by government, INEC, security agencies, leaders of political parties and civil society to address issues and grievances that may lead to violence. Civic and electoral education and public sensitization and mobilisation must be prioritised.
Inadequate preparation by INEC: issues with the issuance of PVCs and perceived or actual disenfranchisement of potential voters, if not resolved, will mar the elections. INEC must take into account the lessons learnt from previous elections and improve on its performance. INEC must avoid all the well known pitfalls witnessed in previous elections and act in ways that portray it as being impartial and fair to all.
The media should avoid skewed coverage of political activities and provide equal media space to all political parties and candidates, he observed
Nwanguma said NOPRIN calls on government and all stakeholders in the electoral and democratic process to work dispassionately, selflessly and in the larger interest of the country to ensure that these obstacles are addressed and that the rights of Nigerian to participate in governance and to choose their leaders through free and fair elections are upheld, protected and defended saying ‘we must all work together to safeguard and strengthen our nascent democracy’.