A Pro-Obi group under the auspices of the Nigeria Lawyers Coalition for Peter Obi has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Abuja regarding the alleged harassment of supporters of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate during their October 1st rallies in various parts of the country.
In the appeal dated 11 October 2022, the organization also copied the International Human Rights Commission, the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
A copy of the petition entitled, “COMPLAINT AGAINST PREMEDITATED ASSAULT, HARASSMENT, AND INTIMIDATION OF LABOUR PARTY SUPPORTERS IN NIGERIA made available to Vanguard was signed by Osagie Emmanuel, Convener; Ereweke Precious Ifeanyi Esq, National Secretary, and Austin Okeke Esq, Head International Litigation and Diplomacy.
During the Independence Day demonstrations, political thugs harassed and violated the human rights of Obi’s fans, also known as Obidients. Furthermore, the security agents failed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The statement partly read, “While Nigeria has been pre-occupied with the electioneering campaigns in view of the forthcoming general elections of 2023, grave momentous developments in connection thereto, have been taking place in the country which we feel compelled to bring to the attention of your office and indeed the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the African Union Human Rights Commission, European Union Human Rights Commission and other International Organizations and Governments, especially because the government of the day and the Security apparatus appear to be ignoring complaints made about serious human rights violations some leading to near fatality.
“During and about the October 1st, 2022 the OBIdients (a word used to describe the Labour Party supporters & its Presidential Candidate) Movement organized marches and rallies to mark the 62nd Independence Day Anniversary of Nigeria; these rallies took place virtually across all the cities in Nigeria, London, New York and other cities across the world.
“Some of the OBIdients were either brutally attacked, assaulted and sustaining grievous bodily injuries, harassed and intimidated by supporters of APC political party in Lagos, NNPP supporters in Kano, the members of the Nigerian Police and some elements of Ebubeagu vigilante personnel in Imo State
“Some of these elements acted under the cover of government authority because they were dressed in uniforms of government agencies such as the Park Officials in Lagos State and others armed with assault weapons, to mention just these few.”
It then referred to numerous more violations of Obi’s human rights in the states of Imo and Ebonyi by the South-East security arm known as Ebubeagu, as well as assaults and brutalizations that occurred mostly in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, and Enugu, among others.
“In the days running up to the Independence Day marches and rallies, we have had some of the Labour Party supporters assaulted and brutalized in Kano State, Kaduna State, Plateau State Enugu State, Ebonyi State, and Katsina State by either the Police, thugs of the APC and NNPP political parties, or some nefarious elements of the Ebubeagu vigilante in Imo State and Ebonyi State.
“None of the perpetrators of these crimes have been arrested or questioned so far. These crimes against ordinary Citizens who are expressing their basic human rights have continued unchecked and without condemnation or a word of caution from the States or the Federal governments. Their body language seems to be one of relish of each and every attack on the victims,” it added.
The lawyers further claimed, “Based on the fact that these perpetrators operate freely and unchecked, and driven by financial motivation, they are going to any lengths to achieve their mission which effectively is to disenfranchise the supporters of the Labour Party through any means possible in the coming general elections in Nigeria in 2023.
“Since the campaign was officially flagged off, there has been an exponential increase in the persecution of the Labour Party supporters across Nigeria. Despite the documented evidence of these atrocities, they continue to happen under the watch of law enforcement agencies, and none of the perpetrators has either been arrested or prosecuted.
INEC AND PVC
The group also raised concern over the misconceptions surrounding the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in the southern region of the country, as administered by the Independence of National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Finally, the Independent National Electoral Commission “INEC” appears to be showing signs of bias. During registration, there were credible reports of prejudice against certain ethnic groups in registration ranging from lack of equipment in certain areas and outright denial of registration.
“Despite the fact that INEC used the excuse of wanting to have enough time to print Permanent Voters Cards “PVCs” to stop registration of eligible voters 7 months to the election (which in many quarters was seen as the disenfranchisement of citizens who many believe were more than likely Labour Party supporters), INEC has not delivered any PVCs to the offices for voters pick up.
“The last report by many who should have picked up their PVCs in August after many visits to the INEC offices was that they were told to check in the last week of November. This is a cause for concern given INECs antecedents and their posture as a biased Umpire.
“One wonders if those who registered in January are yet to have their PVCs delivered when those whose registration happened up to July, would receive theirs. The problems seem to be in the South only as the distribution of PVCs and registration in the North appeared seamless.
The group’s demands
The attorneys urged the NHRC and the international community to persuade the federal government of Nigeria not to disenfranchise and harass Obi’s supporters in advance of the 2023 general elections.
It said, “We, therefore, urge your kind intervention in getting the Federal Government of Nigeria (FG) to ensure it protects all its citizens and to stop APC thugs from violating the human rights of others. To do otherwise is to encourage the disenfranchisement of citizens, especially as Obidients are also noticing the fact that INEC has not been able to fulfill its scheduled PVC delivery dates.
“To date, despite the announcement of INEC that PVCs will be ready for collection and even stating to the Court that registration had to stop in July i.e. 7 months before the election, to allow them to print PVCs, none has been delivered.
“So, it appears that the FG is complicit in schemes being used to perpetrate the disenfranchisement of the opposition especially Labour Party Supporters, as it is believed that most of the new registrants are more than likely Labour Party supporters.
“The government should identify and immediately take stringent action against those involved in these crimes.
“We further request the United Nations, the United States Government, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the International Community to do all in their powers to halt these barbaric conducts which have gone on under the watch of the President, and the federal government officials for some time now.”