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Attacks: INEC pushing it responsibility to CSOs – Ex-NHRC boss

Prof Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has blamed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the numerous attacks…

Prof Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has blamed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the numerous attacks on its facilities across the country.

Prof Odinkalu made this submission while speaking on the Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

The 2023 general elections are scheduled to hold between February and March 2023 but many offices of the electoral umpire have been attacked, mostly in the eastern part of the country, while non-state actors are holding sway in many northern communities.

While reacting to this development recently, the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, noted that the body may not be able to prepare on time for the 2023 general elections if the attacks on its facilities continue.

But Odinkalu stressed that the electoral umpire had refused to take leadership in responding to the attacks on its facilities, adding that the body had pushed its advocacy responsibilities to the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

He said: “Until now, INEC has been unwilling to acknowledge the challenges and when some of us raised those issues, you have people from within INEC and outside calling us unpatriotic.

“INEC continues to underestimate the challenge. The real question is not if this violence will continue or not, the reality is it is going to continue.

“INEC is unwilling to come clean and if you ask them, they will tell you that they are relying on the inter-agency committee on election security.”

The former NHRC chairman also expressed worries that the political class had refused to prosecute those arrested for electoral violence.

He however noted that INEC being the body with the responsibility to organise elections, should be the one making the judgement calls and not the security agencies.

The former NHRC chairman said: “It’s not secret. If you speak to the security services at the highest level and middle levels, they acknowledged that there are challenges.

“INEC has the responsibility to ensure that its staff are able to administer election safely and there are parts of this country as we speak where as a result of violence it is difficult for INEC to deploy safely for elections.

“If INEC can not deploy safely to do elections in such places, that means you can take it for granted that it is also unsafe for citizens to vote in those places.

“If that is so, citizens in those places need to be told. INEC are unwilling to provide leadership and the politicians are happy with that.

“There is a disclosure responsibility on the part of these people which they have failed to do.”

He said electoral violence has become a culture in Nigeria, pointing out that “you don’t shoot your way out of a culture”.

“INEC has an advocacy responsibility apart from every other thing it does. On this particular issue of violence, INEC has an advocacy responsibility that it has abandoned. It had tried to outsource it. The NGOs have tried to give excuses for INEC,” he added.