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Free and Fair Election? Get Real!

As the Nigerian populace awaits the election results for a new president, which took place on Feb. 25, there is a constant state of anxiety regarding who will be responsible for the security of their lives and properties moving forward. So far, Nigerian citizens under the current administration of President Mohammadu Buhari have suffered human rights abuses from the country’s state security apparatus, in addition to lives and properties lost to Islamic terrorist groups, kidnappers, and armed bandits. These elements, for the past eight years, had roamed across the nation, causing mayhem with impunity without any delivery of justice by the government for the victims.

Between Articles 3 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), everyone is entitled to rights to freedom from discrimination, association of a peaceful assembly, expression of opinion, and freedom of movement. However, it’s hard to imagine a free and fair election while the government remains incompetent and complacent to the plight of the Nigerian people.

According to The Guardian, several riots broke out the week prior to the election across major cities in several states, such as Lagos, Ibadan, and Benin, due to frustrations of the public who are having challenges accessing the new naira notes developed by the Nigerian Central Bank (CBN). In Benin city, several hoodlums attempted to burn the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) branch office before burning down two other bank buildings. In other cities, ATMs were vandalized, and roads were blocked by angry mobs.

“There is a thick veil of violence shrouding the 2023 elections that undermines people’s fundamental right to vote. It is important for the authorities to swiftly restore public confidence in their ability to hold those responsible for electoral violence accountable and ensure the safety and security of all Nigerians, stated Human Rights Watch Researcher Aniete Ewang.”

Furthermore, the lack of infrastructure, causing incessant electricity, fuel shortages, and poor internet services across the nation, aggravated the citizens’ access to polling centers and the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) ability to provide full transparency as promised by the electoral body.

According to Reuters, INEC claimed it could not upload its results directly from many of its polling centers to its website due to logistical and technological difficulties. Hence, the votes were counted manually behind closed doors, stoking the clouds of distrust familiar to the Nigerian populace and opposition parties.

History is replete with similar instances stated above. We’ve seen this movie before; this is a rerun of the previous episodes of a political charade. This time around, the probability of a free and fair election outcome remains nil. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

HRF facilitated the release of indigent clients, Abba Abdullah and Abdullah Ali on February 24, 2023, at a Lagos State Magistrate Court, after awaiting trial and incarcerated for 8 months. The case was struck out for want of diligent prosecution.

L-R: Abba Abdullah, HRF Legal Associate, Ni’mah Ali, and  Abdullah Ali.
HRF represented indigent client, Idowu Oshodi.  After awaiting trial and incarcerated for 5 months, the case was struck out for want of diligent prosecution on February 24, 2023, at a Lagos State Magistrate Court.

L-R: Idowu Oshodi, and HRF Legal Associate Ni’mah Ali.

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