Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi,
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has demanded that security agencies and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should investigate and document the recent inciting comments by Governor Ahmad Nasir El-Rufai because they constitute infractions on the electoral laws of Nigeria.
According to TMG, a coalition of over 400 civic organizations, elites like El Rufai, who have many options for escape would not be the victims when the unplanned effect of such rhetoric capable of inciting violence, snowballed into a crisis, which could undermine peace and security, before, during and after the polls.
The TMG in a statement by its chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, was reacting to the recent statement made by el Rufai, to the effect that international observers who allegedly interfere in Nigeria’s elections have death awaiting them as such people would be returned in body bags.
She said, “For the umpteenth time therefore, TMG finds it imperative to caution all political actors to be mindful of their utterances, especially at this delicate point in the electoral process. This call becomes critical because in a volatile political environment such as we have in Nigeria, overzealous party faithful and political supporters could take these threats as the green light from their principals to unleash violence on perceived opponents, or any other perceived as not belonging to the camp of the perpetrators.
“Importantly, the extant electoral laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria frown against all forms of incitement. Specifically, Section 128 of the Electoral Act, 2010 provides a fine of N500, 000 or a prison term of 12 months, or both for anyone inciting others to act in a disorderly manner.
“Beyond moral suasion therefore, TMG calls on the relevant government agencies including the security agencies, the National Human Rights Commission to investigate and document these kinds of comments, which constitute infractions on the electoral laws. This we believe should be done with a view to holding to account those who incite violence of any kind all through the electoral process.”
“As a civic coalition working assiduously in concert with other stakeholders to promote democratic accountability through credible elections in Nigeria, it is clear to us that such a morbid and inflammatory rhetoric could be used as justification for attacks on many well meaning international observers who have come to support the democratic process in our country.
“No matter the premise of governor El Rufai’s discussion on the issue of interference or intervention, the implied threat of people leaving in body bags, is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of peace-loving Nigerians, who welcome and are much appreciative of international efforts to bolster and support Nigeria’s democratic institutions.
“For us at TMG, whether the immediate outcome of his rhetoric is what he intended or not, our position is that violent imageries such as “body bags,” which the governor deployed in his commentary could be used by perpetrators of electoral violence to rally those involved in organizing and executing nefarious activities.
“Elites like El Rufai, who have many options for escape will not be the victims when the unplanned effect of such rhetoric capable of inciting violence, snowballs into a crisis, which could undermine peace and security, before, during and after the polls.
“Apart from the fact that such unguarded statements could incite violence, thereby undermining the integrity of the elections, they could also affect participation by the electorate, especially excluded and marginalized groups, including women, and people living with disabilities.”