By: Sunday Ejike, Abuja
In less than 24 hours to the general elections, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday, launched the 2023 general elections situation room to closely monitor activities of law enforcement and security agencies during the elections.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu (SAN), in his speech at the launch in Abuja said, law enforcement agencies have a primary responsibility to protect the security of voters during voting and to also help protect voter access and participation.
He said, the Human Rights Situation Room will receive and treat complaints of human rights violations from across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.
Ojukwu said, the Commission will not spare any efforts in addressing any human rights violation issue raised by voters all over the Country and encouraged Nigerians to confidently go out and exercise their fundamental right to vote.
The situation room, he said is equipped with toll free lines and short codes for easy and cost-free access to complaints by members of the public, adding that the Commission is putting everything in place to ensure that Nigerians can have confidence that when they call the toll-free lines, their complaints will not go unheard.
Ojukwu said, the Human Rights Situation room will be a hub inside the Commission where the Commission plans to take advantage of its wide reach by having offices in the 36 states of Nigeria to monitor the conduct of elections immediately before, during and after the elections.
The National Human Rights Commission, he said, was established as a National Human Rights Institution with the mandate to promote and protect human rights of every person in Nigeria in line with the human rights provisions under the Constitution, enactments of the National and State Assemblies and treaties and conventions acceded to by Nigeria.
Ojukwu said, free and fair elections are key tenets of a democratic system of governance and that, the right to participate in the governance process including the right to vote and to stand for elections is central to a democracy.
He said, elections are germane in creating an enabling environment for the fulfilment of human rights and added that the right to vote and be elected is interwoven with the enjoyment of a plethora of other key human rights which include the right to freedom of association, right to peaceful assembly, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom of information and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Since 1999 when Nigeria began its current democratic voyage, Ojukwu said, the NHRC has been playing a fundamental role in advancing Nigeria’s democracy through the development of programmes aimed at integrating human rights into the electoral process and supporting democratic institutions and election management bodies to deliver on their mandates.
“The Commission’s role in this regard is founded on the recognition of the importance of the consolidation of democracy in the realization of all human rights in Nigeria. To put it succinctly, the fulfilment and enjoyment of human rights are critical cannons of a properly functioning democratic system as a thriving democracy provides an enabling environment for human rights to thrive”.
In a related development the Commission on Friday, issued guidelines on the role of the law enforcement and security agencies in the protection of voters’ access and participation at elections.
The objectives of the guidelines, according to the NHRC boss is to provide for the roles of law enforcement and security agents in ensuring access and participation in elections, protection of voters’ and voting process at elections as well as ensuring accountability for human rights violations committed in election operations.
He noted that violence, voter intimidation, inducement and suppression impact negatively on the enjoyment of the right to vote and urged every law enforcement and security agent on election duty to conduct their actions in responsible and disciplined manner with the sole aim of ensuring voter access and protection of voting process as enunciated under the guidelines.