The US government has accused security agents in Nigeria, including the Police, Nigeria Army, and DSS of intimidating voters during the 2019 elections in Nigeria.
It said overwhelming evidence in its possession point to the fact that the security agencies worked for the success of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the polls.
The US government also alleged that the Judiciary was complicit in helping APC win the 2019 elections due to several factors; including intimidation by the Executive and Legislative arms as well as corruption. As such the Judiciary was unable to function effectively.
Excerpts from a 44 page report released on the subject matter read;
“During the year (2019) INEC conducted the presidential election, National Assembly elections, state House Assembly elections, and local elections in all 36 states plus the FCT, as well as governorship elections in 30 states
There was evidence military and security services intimidated voters, electoral officials and election observers. In addition violence in several states contributed to lower voter participation and added to the sentiment the army is a tool of the ruling party in many parts of the country, particularly in the South.
For example, widespread violence and military involvement in electoral processes, including during the vote collation process, significantly scarred the governorship election in Rivers State.
Additionally several of INEC’s resident electoral commissioners reported DSS operatives intimidated them when the RECs attempted to protect voting materials.
Some RECs reported security service personnel visited them multiple times prior to the elections.”
The report also revealed incidences of vote buying at every stage of the 2019 elections.
“There were reports that corruption, including vote-buying, were historically high during the 2018-19 electoral season.
Examples of vote-buying were apparent in the re-run of the Osun (State) gubernatorial election in September 2018, and during the Kano (State) gubernatorial election on March 9 (2019).”
The report stated further that court officials were underpaid and therefore susceptible to corruption and manipulation which happened freely.
“Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial branch remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches. Political leaders influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels.
“Understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency, and corruption prevented the judiciary from functioning adequately. There are no continuing education requirements for attorneys, and police officers were often assigned to serve as prosecutors.
Judges frequently failed to appear for trials. In addition, the salaries of court officials were low, and they often lacked proper equipment and training.”
The report noted that confidence in the Judiciary was eroded as a result of the 2019 elections and the litigations that followed thereafter.
“There was a widespread public perception that judges were easily bribed and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary in civil matters, but the executive and legislative branches, as well as business interests, exerted influence and pressure in civil cases.
Official corruption and lack of will to implement court decisions also interfered with due process.”
Asides from their complicity in the lapses of the 2019 elections, the US government also berated security agents in Nigeria for the spike in the rate of human rights abuses in Nigeria since President Buhari came to power in 2015.
According to reports by Punch Newspaper, the US government accused the Nigerian security agents of human rights abuses against journalists, rights groups as well as the Islamic Movement of Nigeria also known as Shiites.
It accused Buhari’s government of inaction and complacency over the alleged 2015 killing of 300 Shiites by military officers.
The US government noted that although Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna State had set up a panel of inquiry. The recommendations were only carried out partially.
While the IMN was proscribed, the military officers that carried out the killings walked free.
“As of September (2019) there were no reports of the Federal Government further investigating or holding individuals accountable for the 2015 killing and subsequent mass burial of members of a Shia political organisation, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, and other civilians by Nigerian Army forces in Zaria, Kaduna State.
A 2016 report by the government of Kaduna State included acceptance of the commission’s recommendation to investigate and prosecute allegations of excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Nigerian Army. As of September, there was no indication that authorities had held any members of the NA accountable for the events in Zaria.”
The report concluded by painting a bleak outlook of Nigeria Prisons renamed the Nigerian Correctional Services.
It pointed out that life remained harsh in prison and detention centres across Nigeria.
“Prisoners and detainees reportedly were subjected to gross overcrowding, inadequate medical care, food and water shortages, and other abuses; some of these conditions resulted in deaths.”