In a tweet posted on 25th March 2023, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu confirmed that the Lagos State government had resolved to comply with the ruling of the Federal High Court to pay N5 million to Mr. Clement Adedotun, the Uber driver who was tortured by policemen during the October 2021 #EndSARS memorial. Mr. Sanwo-Olu further added that he was committed to upholding the rule of law, protecting citizens’ rights with empathy and authority and committed to upholding the rights of all Lagosians.
While Mr. Clement Adedotun rightfully deserves the compensation and even more, Mr. Governor’s words are painfully laughable. Nothing could be further from the truth and terribly hypocritical. Upholding the rule of law? Upholding the rights of Lagosians? Who’s Mr. Governor kidding, really? Just seven days before posting the tweet, his government and party, the APC, while aided by the Nigeria Police largely supervised one of the most widespread, orchestrated violent attacks on opposition voters across the entire Lagos State during the gubernatorial elections.
Given that elections are an integral part of any democratic society, one where a platform is provided for eligible citizens to choose their leaders through peaceful and fair means. The emphasis here is on “peaceful” and “fair.” However, since the March 18th elections were violent and involved the violation of people’s rights, Mr. Governor’s tweet on upholding the rule of law and the rights of Lagosians further angers and grieves the soul.
Electoral violence not only undermines the democratic process but also inflicts physical, psychological, and emotional harm on those affected. Therefore, in like manner, necessity demands that it is crucial for the Lagos State government to compensate those who suffered violence during the last elections, if they must truly say that they uphold human rights and promote peaceful and fair electoral processes.
The March 18th elections in Lagos State featured state-sanctioned physical assault, murder, destruction of property, and intimidation. These should not be taken lightly. In many cases, those affected were innocent voters who just happened to be supporting the Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. Regrettably, such violence can result in long-term physical injuries and psychological trauma that may precipitate fear and uncertainty that can discourage citizens from participating in future elections, thereby undermining democracy.
Compensating victims of electoral violence is a crucial step towards addressing the harm caused by such violence. It is an admission by the government that people’s rights have been violated, and a show of commitment to providing redress for the harm suffered. Compensation can take many forms, including financial compensation, medical assistance, and rehabilitation services. These can go a long way in helping victims recover from the harm and rebuilding their lives.
Let’s be clear on one thing: electoral violence is closely related to human rights abuse. When violence occurs during elections, the rights of those affected are often violated, especially their right to life, liberty, and security. The right to freedom of expression and assembly is also curtailed when individuals are prevented from exercising their right to vote or to participate in the electoral process.
By compensating victims of electoral violence, the Lagos state government can further demonstrate its commitment to upholding human rights and promoting democratic values. It sends a clear message that electoral violence will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.
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