News / Africa

HRW, Nigerian Lawyers Seek Crackdown on Political Violence

Violent, rigged elections have been the norm in Nigeria since 1999 when the country moved from military to civilian rule.

Election-related violence killed at least 300 people during the last nationwide poll in 2007, which was so marked by voter intimidation and ballot stuffing that it was rejected by many national and international observers.

Now, just weeks away from a series of nationwide elections that promise to be the country's most contested to date, Human Rights Watch says election-related violence has killed more than 50 people since November and is expected to increase.

HRW, Nigerian Lawyers Seek Crackdown on Political Violence
HRW, Nigerian Lawyers Seek Crackdown on Political Violence

The head of Nigeria's federal law-enforcement agency, the State Security Service, warned politicians at a meeting this week in the capital, Abuja, not to use violence against their rivals.

Chairman of the Election Working Group at the Nigerian Bar Association, Dafe Akpedeye, said these warnings need to be paired with increased accountability.

"If people have done violence in the past and nothing has happened to them, then there is the motive to do more violence," said Akpedeye. "Everyone is craving that political power because with political power comes all the perks associated with it. Because people want this desperately, they'll do anything they can to ensure that nobody gets them out of office, win the elections by any means, whether fair or otherwise."

He said bombing a political rally can be a way to block rival candidates from campaigning or intimidate an opponent's supporters in the hopes that they won't go to the polls on election day.

Nigerian authorities have expressed concern about bombings and other forms of pre-vote violence.

The most recent attack happened two weeks ago when a bomb exploded in a roadside market near a ruling party election rally in the central town of Suleja, killing 10 people and injuring at least 20 more.

Car bombings rocked the capital, Abuja, on Independence Day in October and on New Year's Eve, killing dozens. On Christmas Eve, explosions and reprisal attacks rocked the country's volatile middle belt region, where religious and ethnic clashes have killed hundreds in recent years.

Opposition campaigns in the country's troubled oil-producing Niger Delta region have also been the targets of bombings. The main militant group in the Delta, MEND, said this week it would launch fresh attacks on oil installations and political meetings.

Human Rights Watch says corrupt politicians, in many cases backed by mafia-like "godfathers," openly mobilize gangs of thugs to terrorize ordinary citizens and political opponents and to stuff or steal ballot boxes. Akpedeye says the police charged with investigating these crimes often turn a blind eye, or sometimes participate, in abuses.

"Because the police themselves have stood by while this violence happened, they are more or less implicated in the process. If you ask me, they are complicit in the process, so they can be judged on their own costs," Akpedeye said.

The Nigerian Bar Association and Human Rights Watch are calling on the National Assembly to pass a now two-year-old bill that would create a special Electoral Offenses Commission to investigate and prosecute election-related abuses, including violence.

"If you warn me and I know that there are no consequences for my bad behavior, why should I stop?" Akpedeye asked. "If you have an independent commission, then the powers that be can actually be brought to book and punished."

Nigeria goes to the polls for nationwide elections next month, including a presidential poll on April 9.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs