A civil society group, HURIDAC is calling for “a human rights friendly environment before, during and after the Ekiti election.”
HURIDAC is seriously concerned about the threat to peace and security in the State and the potential denial of the internationally recognized human rights of the people of Ekiti State.
The Gubernatorial election in Ekiti State is slated for June 21st. However, the build up to the election has been marked by violence and threat to human rights. Death has already been recorded, security has been beefed up, and the general environment in the state is already tense and militarized.
While many civil society organizations are coming to Ekiti to monitor the election, one organisation, the Human Rights Advancement, Development and Advocacy Centre (HURIDAC) is employing a new approach of monitoring the election from a human rights perspective.
“HURIDAC’s role in monitoring the election is advancing and advocating for a human rights friendly environment for the election. This will enable the citizens of the state to exercise their rights to participation in their political affairs. It is important that people are not disenfranchised due to the tense and violence-prone environment, as this will invariably violate their right to vote. The right to vote is an important element of citizens’ rights to participate in their own government,” said Ayodele Ameen, HURIDAC’s Executive Director.
The organisation is therefore calling on all stakeholders to contribute to ensuring a human rights friendly environment for the election. An environment that will not only guarantee a ‘free’ election, but also guarantee the ‘fairness’ of the election, which is an essential precondition for good governance and respect for the rule of law. This election must guarantee the exercise of freedom of opinion, association, expression, non-discrimination, and the use of the secret ballot box system. “The election needs to be ‘fair’, and in doing that, the environment must be conducive for the encouragement of the ‘one person, one vote’ system, for non-discrimination and positive measures, and for a genuine election,” Ayodele Ameen further stated.
A few days to the election, cases have been reported of intent for electoral fraud. The security agencies claimed that some people have already been arrested. According to HURIDAC’s Executive Director; “Though the Electoral Act made provisions for the prosecution of electoral offences, election tribunals should move beyond just adjudication on electoral results, and should consider harsh punishment for evidence of electoral fraud. The government should stop impunity around electoral fraud.”
The success of this gubernatorial election will be determined by how professionally the security forces dispense their duties. “The security forces have a bigger role to play. The police and other security agencies should be independent and give assurance to all parties that the police will protect them all. If voters observe that the utterances or body language of the police are suggesting bias or doing the bidding of one party or candidate, this will undermine their trust and confidence in these institutions, create political apathy, and ultimately infringe on peoples’ right to participate.”
International standards suggest that the police should balance between their role to maintain law and order during elections and the importance of non-interference with human rights and the existence of an environment free of intimidation. According to the United Nations Code of Conduct for law enforcement officers (art. 2); “law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons”. The UN has stated that; “police agencies that do not respect fundamental human rights has the potential to create an intimidating atmosphere that will inhibit the electorate and subvert the genuineness of the election outcome”. The UN further stated that any; “police presence at places of polling should be discrete, professional and disciplined. Police and security personnel should be posted in the minimum number necessary to ensure security in a given location. They should never be positioned in such a way that will impede legitimate access, intimidate voters or discourage them from participating.”
HURIDAC further stated that human rights should not be compromised during this election, that the organization will be gathering information on cases of human rights violations and abuses, and that these will be forwarded to appropriate quarters.
The citizens should ensure that their right to vote is exercised and defended during this election, said the Executive Director.