The US government in a report released on Wednesday by the Department of State, also said it has evidence that the Army and the DSS intimidated voters, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission and even election observers during the general elections, concluding that this fueled the impression that the Army worked for the success of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the polls.
The report, the 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria, also noted that the Nigerian judiciary was still susceptible to intimidation by the executive and the legislative arms of government, contending that there was corruption in the judiciary, which made it not to be able to function independently.
“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.
“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.
On the judiciary, the US contended that it has been unable to function optimally due to executive and legislative intimidation as well as corruption, adding that court officials were also poorly paid thereby making them susceptible to manipulation.
The US said: “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.
“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.”
Highlighting the high rate of human rights abuse perpetuated by security agents against journalists, rights groups and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, the US Government said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government had not taken action against any of the military officials that killed over 300 Shiites in 2015.
The US explained the aspect of the panel of enquiry set up by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State that indicted military officers in the killing of Shi’ites in the state had not been implemented though the recommendation for IMN’s proscription had been implemented.
“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 further stated.
On the state of the prisons in Nigeria, the US Government noted that conditions in prison and detention centres remained harsh and life threatening.
“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”, the report stated.
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