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The National Human Rights Commission received 450 complaints of human rights abuse and violations during the 2023 general elections, its Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu (SAN), said on Wednesday.
According to him, while 300 complaints of human rights violations were received during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, 150 cases were recorded during the governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
Ojukwu stated these in an interview with journalists in Abuja during the launch of the e-rights project by the Avocats Sans Frontières France popularly known as Lawyers Without Borders.
The project which was funded by the European Union aimed at promoting the rights of Nigerians in the digital sphere, harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges provided by new technologies.
He explained that the NHRC closely monitored the activities of law enforcement and security agencies during the elections.
Ojukwu said, “During the presidential elections, we had about 300 cases of complaints or human rights violations and during the governorship and States l Houses of Assembly elections, we had about 150 complaints.
“However, I cannot say exactly the categorization. This is because some were about violence, vote buying, voter suppression, intimidation, hate speech and so on. Don’t forget, we had a Situation Room which was able to harness the complaints of Nigerians across the board of the violations that happened during the election.”
The Vice President of ASF France, Ivan Paneff, said the agency had, over the last 15 years, work with Nigerian institutions to protect human rights of the citizens.
He, however, said the coming of modern technologies had made it necessary to look at the aspect of digital rights.
“Now, we have entered a new phase in a new area of the law due to the permanent intervention of electronic devices, tools, and networks in our day-to-day life. It means that we have to take that into account to protect the rights of the citizens and to fight against abuses using tools, networks, and different bad behaviour of certain bodies or certain companies. That’s why we opened a partnership with Nigerian institutions in that way”, Paneff stated.
The Country Representative of ASF France in Nigeria, Angela Uwandu, warned against censorship of online platforms, saying freedom of expression has to be guaranteed, not just offline, but also on online platforms.
According to her, the e-project would respond directly to the needs of Nigerian youths, activists, journalists, online news platforms, bloggers, social media influencers, human rights defenders, and active citizens to have access to a free and open internet.
She said, “Today, we have the pleasure of launching the e-Rights Project, which is aimed at enhancing digital rights in Nigeria and in order to do this, we are working together with our partners to deal with the issues of creating free online spaces and secure online spaces to ensure that citizens are able to interact on digital platforms while ensuring key respectful human rights.
“When it comes to technological platforms, such as social media as we know, it is important to realize that that is a platform that people have to express themselves. So freedom of expression has to be guaranteed, not just offline, but also on these platforms.
“However, we must also know that in one expressing our rights, we ought not to violate the rights of other people, we have to strike that balance. But at the same time, the government cannot and should not use that as an excuse to censor people online.
“Censorship completely should not never be tolerated. We should also ensure that at all times the government is respecting people’s rights.”