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SERAP warns Buhari to detain the attackers of INEC offices in Nigeria or face legal repercussions

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct law enforcement agencies to track down and apprehend those responsible for the attacks on the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The group urged the President to

“urgently direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate law enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend the perpetrators and sponsors of attacks on INEC offices across the country.”

In addition, SERAP urged him to “ensure that the perpetrators and their sponsors, regardless of their political affiliations, are named and shamed and promptly brought to justice.”

Recent reports indicate simultaneous attacks on INEC local government offices in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and Ede, Osun State. Between February 2019 and May 2021, at least 41 such attacks occurred in 14 states. According to recent reports, over 50 attacks on INEC offices have occurred in several states in the last few months.

The organization stated in a letter dated 12 November 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, “These attacks are increasingly putting INEC under siege.” If not addressed immediately, the escalating attacks on INEC offices will jeopardize the people’s right to vote.”

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It added that the attacks would “undermine public confidence in the electoral process.” Trust in the process is the real foundation of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

According to SERAP, “the right to vote will have little meaning” if those who carry out and support attacks on INEC offices are allowed to get away with their crimes against the Nigerian people.

The letter stated: “An electoral commission that can function in a safe and secure environment is essential to Nigeria’s constitutional democracy.”

“We would appreciate it if the recommended measures were implemented within 7 days of receipt and/or publication of this letter.” If we have not heard from you by that time, SERAP will consider legal action to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.

“Your government’s continued failure to investigate, identify, name, and shame the perpetrators and their sponsors, and bring them to justice, fuels impunity and results in a vicious cycle of attacks and violence.”

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“SERAP requests that you direct the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to immediately provide adequate security to protect INEC facilities throughout the country in order to ensure and guarantee the safety and security of the commission’s staff and materials.”

“SERAP is deeply concerned about the increasing number of attacks on INEC offices and equipment, as well as election materials.”

“For the commission to effectively and satisfactorily carry out its constitutional and statutory obligations, it is crucial to ensure the security and safety of INEC officials, their working environment, and election equipment and materials.

“If armed non-state actors, including political thugs and their sponsors, attack INEC offices and get away with their crime, the critical electoral reforms that have occurred will have little or no effect on the electoral process.”

“Arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators and their sponsors of these attacks would prevent similar acts ahead of the 2023 elections, improve INEC’s ability to discharge its responsibilities, and promote the right to vote.”

In Abeokuta, “some unidentified persons reportedly overpowered the security personnel on duty and set the entire building on fire,” the group recalled. The main building and all of the Commission’s movable assets in the office were destroyed.”

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“They include: 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, 8 electric power generators, and 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters Cards,” it added (PVCs). Unidentified individuals reportedly attacked the INEC building in Ede and set a portion of it on fire.

With less than 100 days until the general election of 2023, attacks on INEC offices are becoming more frequent.

In addition, there have been reports of political persecution of opposition parties by some state governors as well as political violence, including attacks by alleged political thugs during elections.

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