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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid