Human rights groups under the aegis of the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SCBHROs) have urged registered voters in Anambra State to exercise their rights and vote in the November 18 governorship election in the state.
The coalition said the residents of the state should shun the "vote and die” threat by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is intended to coerce voters into boycotting Saturday’s gubernatorial election.
On Friday, some members of IPOB threatened to kill people in Anambra State who vote in the election.
The aggrieved members of the group, who marched on the streets of Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State, were seen in a video vowing to disrupt the activities of the exercise.
“If you vote you will die. Don’t go out, stay in your house. If you vote on November 18, you will die,” they threatened.
In a joint statement signed by the coordinators of the 16 different groups, the coalition also raised an alarm over the massive deployment of armed security personnel to Anambra State ahead of the gubernatorial poll.
In their statement, the human rights groups said that residents willing to participate by voting in the election should be armed with their voters’ cards and avoid acts of violence capable of undermining the smooth conduct of the exercise.
“In other words, Anambra voters are passionately appealed to come out massively and vote for the candidates of their choice and ignore ‘vote and die’ threats and attempts to further scare them away through the militarization of Anambra voting arenas by Nigerian security forces.
“Every member of the Anambra public wanting to go out on the 18th of November 2017 is strongly advised to be armed with his or her voter's card and those without voter’s cards have no business going to public arenas in the state until the election period is over,” the groups said.
The coalition also condemned the federal government’s massive deployment of armed security operatives to the state to provide security formations before and during the Saturday election.
It noted that flooding Anambra State with battalions of armed security operatives, supported with military tanks, arms and ammunitions, would scare residents away from performing their constitutional right of voting.
“The massive security deployment is also an indirect confirmation of earlier security information received by our leaderships alleging that the federal government has a special interest in the Anambra governorship poll and wants to capture the state at all costs.
“Apart from over 21,000 armed police personnel being deployed for the poll as announced by the Nigeria Police authorities via the Anambra CP, Garuba Umaru, there are also 10,000 armed soldiers, 5,000 armed naval personnel and 3,000 armed air force personnel.
“There are an additional 11,000 armed personnel of the Nigerian Security & Civil Defense Force (NSCDF) and 3,000 of its dogs, totaling 50,000 armed security personnel.
“That is to further say that with only 4,608 polling booths in Anambra State, it statistically means 11 armed security personnel are allocated for each of the 4,608 polling booths in the state. This is the highest militarized election in the history of civilian-civilian democratic polls in any part of the world.
“Militarization of democratic polls is one of the greatest threats to poll popularity, safety and credibility in modern democratic dispensation or electoral processes.
“It is also a truism that the modern concept of election rigging is rooted in poll militarization, which creates poll insecurity by threatening and scaring away voters from polling booths.
“The theory of anti-election rigging grandly holds that the larger the voters’ turnout, the slimmer the chances to rig, but the lower the voters’ turnout, the bigger the chances to rig.”
The coalition therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the ongoing mass deployment of battalions of armed security personnel and military tanks to Anambra State ahead of the poll.
The groups, however, said that neither the threats of “vote and die” by IPOB nor the federal government’s militarization of Saturday’s election would stop the people of Anambra State from voting.
The IPOB leadership, according to the groups, should desist from further threats of violence against the Anambra State voting population and restrict its appeal for an election boycott to voluntary appeal.
The coalition also urged all security agents on election duty in the state to be properly tagged with conspicuously displayed and worn names and code numbers.
“This is to avoid overzealous and criminal politicians who, if allowed, can fake and dress their thugs and other violent persons with fake military and other security camouflages to pose as security agents.
“Also, no security operative or agent should be allowed to check vehicle papers on Election Day in Anambra State, and INEC must ensure that each of the 4,608 polling booths in the state is supplied with three functional and fully charged card readers so as to speed off the voting process and decongest the polling booths,” the statement read.
No fewer than thirty-five political parties will be participating in Saturday’s gubernatorial election.