The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has raised concern over the state of affairs in the country. It has also warned that rising campaign rhetorics in Edo State portend a danger to the peaceful conduct of the upcoming governorship election, fearing that violence capable of truncating peaceful conduct of the September 19 election would occur. In a press conference addressed in Abuja on Tuesday, August 18, its Convener, Clement Nwankwo stated that the situation in the country, further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the Nigerian government. Furthermore, amid the abysmally low COVID-19 testing, support for citizens who are victims of the pandemic is near absent and the ravaging consequences of the pandemic has not been ameliorated by Government interventions. Mr. Nwankwo also stated that heightened insecurity in the country occasioned by several attacks by bandits, insurgents and terrorists, with the Security Services unable to respond in any responsible manner is also worrying. Multiple calls by State Governors, the National Legislature, CSOs and citizens for the sack of the ineffective leadership of the security agencies have been ignored by the President.
Situation Room further noted that
human rights in the country remain under serious threat with free speech and
free expression constantly threatened. It referred to the recent peaceful
protests by the “Revolution Now” activists, who were highhandedly suppressed by
security forces and several of the protesters arrested and detained.
Furthermore, the arbitrary increase in the fine for hate speech from
(five hundred thousand naira) to N5,000,000.00 (five million naira) is
also perceived as an effort to muzzle free speech.
On the upcoming election in Edo State, Situation Room expressed concern over the rhetorics and isolated incidents of violence in Edo State ahead of the September 2020 Governorship election and the absence of issue based campaigns by political parties. Also of concern is the fact that campaign activities are being conducted in total disregard to the COVID-19 pandemic protection protocols of campaign and voting. However, Situation Room described the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s deployment of its Result Viewing portal, where voters and the public can see polling unit results as elections progress, as a welcome development but underscored the need for necessary Electoral Act reforms and improvement in political party conduct to stabilise elections in Nigeria. The body noted that the recent nullification of the Bayelsa State Governorship elections by the election tribunal also reinforces the need for urgent action on electoral reform, particularly the role of the judiciary to dispense with election matters speedily.
Situation Room therefore called on the Nigerian Government to genuinely seek to implement measures that restore citizens’ confidence in its ability to govern the nation, and address economic challenges of huge loss of jobs, financial hardships, and the arbitrary and unnecessary financial burden being inflicted on citizens via increased new taxes, fees, licenses etc. It underscored that the Government should always respect and protect the rights of Nigerians.
On election administration, the body called on INEC to ensure strict adherence to its guidelines for the conduct of elections and to clearly map out punitive measures for election stakeholders who flout the Commission’s COVID-19 guidelines. The Commission should also ensure that its newly introduced election results portal is transparent, effective and efficient. Situation Room further enjoined political parties in Edo State to focus on issue based campaigns in this final lead to election day and to observe INEC’s COVID-19 protocols in the conduct of campaign rallies. It called on security agents to be non-partisan and professional before, during and after the election, and to abide by INEC’s Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Electoral Duty.