The National Human Rights Commission has charged various political parties in the country to place the issue of human rights protection on the front burner of their campaign.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu noted that human rights protection should be made a critical component of their campaign promises rather than indulging in hate speech to tarnish the image of their opponents.
A statement signed by the spokesperson of the commission, Fatimah Mohammed noted that It is a common knowledge that countries are globally rated in terms of their accomplishments in human rights protection of citizens, insisting that therefore it will be unthinkable for our political parties to neglect human rights issues and belabour the polity with name calling and hate speech before, during and after the 2023 general elections.
The statement quoted Ojukwu to have called on the parties during the official launch of a project tagged “MOVE”, meaning Mobilizing Voters for Election. The project is supported by Ford Foundation and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to Ojukwu, political parties could choose to focus on education, health care, food security etc, which are critical human rights issues confronting the county.
He therefore urged Nigerians particularly those directly or indirectly involved in the 2023 general elections to desist from hate speech and conduct capable of frustrating human rights focused and credible polls.
He warned that the Commission will ensure that any person, group or institution; be it politician, political party, Independent Electoral Elections Commission or law enforcement agency found wanting in any of the processes before, during and after the elections will account for his actions or inactions as the case may be, he stated.
The Executive Secretary also expressed concern over “The retrogressive pattern of voter participation in 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections reaching to a historical low of 35% in the 2019 elections, which is not in the interest of democracy and human rights.
According to him , the above scenario has reflected voter apathy, which is obviously antithetical to the whole essence of democracy which is promoted and reinforced by periodic and credible elections.
Similarly, he recalled how the three elections in 1999, 2003 and 2007 were trailed with complaints of irregularities ranging from logistical failures, disenfranchisement to electoral fraud of all kinds, saying that such challenges had over the years occasioned the unfortunate voter apathy which is being witnessed in recent elections in the country.
He said in order to ensure that errant persons and institutions during the general elections are brought to book, the Commission has opened a Hate Speech Register across its 36 state offices and that the register is manned by Members of staff of the Commission designated as Hate Speech Registrars in the states.
He revealed that the Registrars will track hate speech in print, electronic and social media platforms preparatory to inviting culprits to a panel of inquiry that will be set up in due course to interrogate such hate speech and related cases.
Ojukwu, however, clarified that the Commission does not have prosecutorial powers and as such will leverage on the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Offices of Honourable Attorneys General of the states to handover reports and findings of the Commission on hate speech for further action.