Ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, Amnesty International (AI) has raised an alarm over looming violence especially due to the actions and utterances of the political parties and politicians.
The organisation's country director, Osai Ojigho, said on Wednesday in a statement that the Nigerian authorities must fulfil their obligation to promote, protect, respect and fulfil human rights amidst disturbing signs of violence ahead of the election.
According to him, AI has received disturbing reports of violence by the political class and the unfortunate use of young people to perpetuate the reprehensible acts.
"Government must protect people from violence and ensure the full respect for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association before, during and after the state's upcoming gubernatorial election and subsequent elections in other states of the federation.
"The potential turmoil being stirred up by various factions ahead of the gubernatorial election in Edo State should send a clear signal to the Nigerian authorities of the imminent violence ahead of the polls and government must take active steps to prevent a bloody poll," Ojigho said.
While Amnesty closely monitors happenings in Edo State, Ojigho said political parties and candidates must publicly condemn any advocacy of hatred or incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
"The authorities must put measures in place to ensure politicians and their supporters do not infringe on human rights. They must announce clearly that there is zero-tolerance for human rights violations and that anyone suspected of wrongdoing will be brought to justice," he added.
PDP, APC trade blame
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it believes in free and fair election, but alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is bent on perpetrating violence ahead of the Edo governorship election.
It's Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena told our correspondent that PDP in Edo is allegedly not campaigning for votes but relying on brute force, violence and intimidation of APC members.
"They are already importing militants from Rivers State and we have started seeing the result.
"But we in the APC, we believe in free and fair election; one man one vote. And we want the people to know that," the APC said.
But reacting, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told our correspondent that the waves of violence in the state were as a result of the APC immediate past national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole's desperation to win the state for his "political son" and candidate of the party, Pastor Ize-Iyamu.
"If we are the cause of violent attacks in Edo, we would not come out before Nigerians to condemn it and demand arrest of those involved.
"It is the way of the APC to forcefully win election. We have the people behind us. Nigerians are supporting us," PDP said.
We are deeply concerned - INEC
Speaking on the development, Mr. Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told Daily Trust that the commission is also deeply concerned about the possible outbreak of violence during the Edo governorship election.
According to him, it is clear that the commission's ad hoc and regular staff, voters, observers and even journalists would be at risk when violence breaks out, as lives have been lost due to electoral violence in the past and that was totally unacceptable.
He said the commission has made it clear that it might suspend the Edo governorship election if violence breaks out on election day.
"We will not tolerate the invasion of any of our polling units or collation centres by thugs. Political parties are strongly advised to take this warning very seriously and totally refrain from engaging in any action that might lead to violence which could force the commission to invoke the powers conferred on it by the extant laws," Oyekanmi said.
Act now, CSOs urge security agencies, others
The Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Zikirullahi M. Ibrahim, said "for the umpteenth time, the centre calls on the political actors, INEC and security agencies to do their part in ensuring impunity does not compromise the sanctity of the vote in Edo State."
Also, the Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, told Daily Trust that the call by Amnesty International aligned with Yiaga Africa's position.
For it part, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR), yesterday, berated political parties participating in the ongoing campaigns in Edo State over the spate of electoral violence and inciting statements by major political actors.
NCSSR also said it is worried over the breach of COVID-19 protocols at venues of political campaign rallies ahead of the governorship election.
The group, at a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday through its convener, Clement Nwako, called on security agencies to take actions on some of the inciting statements made by the actors.