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Kogi Guber: Group Charge NHRC to Stop Military From Abusing Electorates

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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been asked to prevail on the military not to deploy its personnel during the Bayelsa and Kogi State governorship elections.

A group known as Concerned Nigerians urged NHRC to avert impending
human rights abuse by stopping the military from deploying its men
during the forthcoming elections.

In a letter addressed to the head of NHRC by its convener, Deji Adeyanju, the group reminded the body of the dangers of military involvement in Nigeria’s political affairs.

The letter is entitled ‘Preventing Human Rights Violations during the
forthcoming governorship elections and the implications of using
military personnel in Bayelsa and Kogi.”

It read, “The National Human Rights Commission is empowered to “deal
with all matters relating to the promotion and protection of human
rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria,” Including before, during and after the elections. We are aware
that the commission is doing a lot in a terribly stressed country with
daily violations of rights, and we indeed commend you.

“We write to inform the commission that it has a strategic role to
play in our electoral processes to proactively prevent human rights
violations during the forthcoming off-season governorship elections, and
most notably, to quickly appraise the danger of using military
personnel in Bayelsa and Kogi State.

“The commission may recall that the last general election was
characterized by violence and various forms of human rights violations
as most post-election reports suggested that the military and other
security agencies were used in several instances to harass, hound,
intimidate and prevent voters from exercising their franchise, while the
electoral officials were obstructed from carrying out their legitimate
duties.

“We are worried that the Nigerian Army, saddled with the
responsibility to protect our territorial integrity and ensure peace
among warring parties, has become obviously partisan, undermining
decades of reputation built as a professional military body.

“The commission must be aware of the danger posed by the increasing
role of the Nigerian Military in our electoral processes and democracy,
and urgently take a proactive step this time around to address their
conducts and behaviours as election concerns mount.

“There is a subsisting court judgement that bars the military from
being deployed for the conduct of our elections and we urge the NHRC to
take this issue up with the authorities concerned in the Presidency and
the Military leadership.

“We are therefore obliged to inform this commission, due to several
reports and complaints that our organization has received since 2015 on
the reckless activities of some surveillance contractors to oil services
and oil companies in Bayelsa, many of whom are largely military
officers, that soldiers should not be deployed for the conduct of
election in that state and elsewhere.

“A painful and heart-wrenching case that our organizations received
was that of Godknows Okoloko, a native of Ondewari community in Southern
Ijaw Local government area of Bayelsa state, who narrated how his
20-year-old son, Konbowei Godknows was brutally murdered by armed agents
working with one Darlon Security and Guards Limited whom are Oil
pipeline surveillance contractors to Nigerian Agip Oil Company LTD,
(NAOC).

“According to the father of the deceased, the security personnel on
that faithful day invaded their community in search of some persons who
were alleged to have vandalized pipelines at Opubaye, a neighbouring
community close to Ondewari, and while the search was on, Mr. Godknows
recalled that the military officers started shooting indiscriminately
and recklessly and in the process, his son, a 20-year-old who was
fishing got shot and died.

“Another sordid account was that of Mr. Rufus Frank, a businessman
from Ondewari community in Southern Ijaw, who in a petition made
available to our organization, also narrated how his son, Mr. Diete
Frank, a final year student of the Federal Polytechnic Ozoror, Delta
State was brutally murdered by the armed military personnel working for
same Darlon Security and Guards Limited.

“There was also a depressing story of the Nigerian military brutality
of how Godspower Christopher, an indigene of Ondewari community in
Southern Ijaw local government whose leg got amputated after a bullet
from an indiscriminate and reckless shooting by military officers that
invaded their community in search of hoodlums that allegedly vandalized
oil pipelines cut through Mr. Christopher’s right leg and also hit the
left leg.

“The commission will recall what happened in Rivers State earlier
this year, when soldiers deployed for elections used the power of gun to
attempt to undermine the election process, and in the process several
persons were gruesomely murdered.

“We pray this commission to as a matter of urgency swing into action
and avert this impending human rights violation that the involvement of
the military might have on the forthcoming Bayelsa and Kogi governorship
elections.

“Various reports by local and international observers on the last
general elections did suggest that the outcome does not reflect the will
of the people as there were cases of voter intimidation and suppression
in many places. There were also reports of military going round
collation centres helping to compromise the electoral process.

“The inability of the Nigerian Military to deal effectively with the
Boko Haram insurgents and other security challenges in the country could
be partly down to the erosion of professionalism in the military as
they become more involved in conducts that undermine their primary
duties.

“We urge the commission not to wait until the people’s rights are
violated before it acts, and it must be proactive and involved in
ensuring that the people of Bayelsa and Kogi vote without any form of
interference and intimidation.

“While there are already insinuations that there will be a massive
presence of military during the election, we, therefore, urge the NHRC
to step forward to prevail on the authorities from the position of human
rights concern. We suggest that the Commission should be part of the
regular INEC initiative signing of PEACE PACT between the major
political actors in Bayelsa and Kogi to douse tension.

“The Nigerian Military is a revered and independent institution that must act responsibly and autonomously without any interference from vested interests and anti-democratic forces. They must be encouraged to face the security challenges in the North East and other parts of Nigeria where they are mostly needed.”

Credit: GCFRNG

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