With the 2023 general elections over, victims of electoral violence wait for justice.
At least 39 persons were reported to have lost their lives in different parts of the country during the polls.
that violence was witnessed in states like Lagos, Abia, Nasarawa, Benue, Akwa Ibom, Osun, and Taraba during the 2023 general elections.
Those who lost their lives during the elections include policemen, politicians, hired thugs, and a yet-to-be-identified ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
While the Nigeria Police had vowed to arrest and prosecute those behind election violence, many of the cases have gone unreported, leaving the culprits to roam free.
Statistics from the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), had identified violence as a major factor that undermined INEC’s performance during the 2023 general election.
The Chairman of CDD Election Analysis Centre, EAC, Prof Adele Jinadu, at a news briefing in Abuja, said their data showed that violence occurred in 10.8 per cent of all polling units, which led to low voter turnout in the state elections.
“10.8% of observed polling units recorded violence and this was most pronounced in the northwest (19.9%) and south-south (11.6%) geopolitical zones with Bayelsa and Zamfara respectively,”Jinadu said.
The Director CDD, Idayat Hassan also noted that the motive of perpetrators of violence was to disrupt election processes.
According to Idayat: “Victims of this violence were voters, some of whom were disenfranchised as a result of having their ballot boxes snatched”.
In Lagos State, some electorates were attacked and threats issued during the just-concluded elections. The former Lagos State National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, chairman Musiliu Akinsanya, also known as MC Oluomo, had threatened Igbos against voting against the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state. Following backlash that greeted this comment, MC Oluomo recanted his threat.
Similarly, one Jennifer Efedi was attacked by thugs suspected to be loyal to the APC during the presidential election.
In Rivers State, the Director of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Campaign Council in Ahoada East local government area of Rivers State, Chisom Lenard, was part of the five people killed in the last election.
An NYSC member, who was an ad-hoc staff member, was killed in Odual Clan in Abua/Odual local government area of the state.
Soldiers killed three persons suspected to be thugs at Ogbakiri community in Emohua Local Government Area of the state during the election.
In Nasarawa State, one man identified as Yunusa Lolo lost his life near the constituency collation centre in Awe local government area of Nasarawa State.
Akwa Ibom witnessed six deaths during the just-concluded general election.
Their death followed a supremacy battle for the soul of the state by rival political parties.
Highlighting the electoral violence during the 2023 elections, the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, said it arrested a total of 781 persons for various forms of offences during the just concluded general elections.
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, said 203 persons were arrested during the presidential and National Assembly elections, while 578 others were apprehended during the governorship and state assembly polls.
Baba said about 66 firearms of various descriptions were also recovered from political thugs during the period.
Addressing Commissioners of Police and Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zonal Commands, the IGP stressed that the Police would collaborate with INEC to ensure that all electoral offenders are prosecuted.
“I have directed that all electoral offences case files across all State Commands be submitted to my office, where a committee has been established to centrally collate and coordinate the processing, preparatory to the commencement of prosecution process,” he said.
Despite the number of electoral violence witnessed across the country, none of the victims have come forward to push for the prosecution of those behind the act, a situation believed to be a demonstration of lack of confidence in the system.
Speaking on the need for victims to fight for justice, a human rights activist, Maduabuchi Idam said victims reserve the right to push for justice.
Idam, a lawyer, lamented that those behind electoral violence had not been prosecuted because the state indirectly encouraged them.
“Ordinarily, without the electoral act, the act of violence is a crime under the Penal Code. Considering the electoral act 2022, the same offence as provided by the Penal Code was duplicated in the electoral act 2022 as electoral offences. The criminal code is acceptable in the South, while the Penal code is acceptable in the North.
“Both laws regulate criminal offences in Nigeria; so in both laws, violence is an offence, whether it was during an election or not.
“Apart from perpetrators being prosecuted, the victims of this violence can maintain a civil action against those who violated them. They can maintain a personal action against the act, but there is no compensation for the victims of electoral violence.
“The actual perpetrators who committed the act can be prosecuted for those offences because it’s a crime, but the victims can seek redress in a conventional civil court for those actions because it’s a violation of their rights, even though such right to vote and be voted for was not captured in the constitution.
“It’s only captured in the international convention on civil and political rights, which is particularly chapter 25, which ‘provides for the right to vote and be voted for’. I hope you are aware that it’s not a constitutional right. By nature of section 7 of the constitution, those rights have been domesticated as Nigerian law, but you won’t find it as a law in Nigeria.
“So, you can actually go to court against the offenders for civil claims, whereas the state can prosecute those people for a criminal wrong.
“Nobody has been prosecuted because most of our laws are obeyed in breach because these laws are lying in the papers. Sometimes, you find perpetrators being arrested and arraigned in court, and after some time, the same politicians who won the election arrange for their release. That is how the matters would be discontinued.
“The state is indirectly encouraging electoral violence because it favours them; they are the ones who engaged the people to intimidate voters and create violence against them to enable them to rig elections.”