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Prof Pat Utomi
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Utomi Condemns Attacks On Opposition Party Supporters By ‘Area Boys’ In Lagos

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Chairman of the Big Tent Coalition, Prof. Pat Utomi, has condemned the act of toughs known as ‘area boys’ attacking supporters of opposition parties in Lagos.

Utomi raised the issue in his remarks during the inauguration of the Lagos State BIG TENT Executive Council and Campaign team for Labour Party in the state on Monday.

The Big Tent is a coalition of political parties, civil society organisations and social movements for actualising the Obi-Datti Presidential bid in 2023.

Some area boys have in recent times reportedly engaged in attacking supporters of political parties pasting posters and campaigning for their party candidates in the upcoming general elections.

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A video that went viral during the weekend showed a man with bleeding face who claimed to be supporter of the Labour Party and was attacked in Lagos while pasting posters of the party’s presidential candidate and also campaigning.

The Big Tent and Labour Party leader also condemned alleged non-distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in Lagos to some group of people because of their perceived political leaning.

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There are reports of alleged attempts to frustrate some registered voters from collecting their PVCs, especially when they are perceived not to be supporting certain political party.

Utomi urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to investigate the issue of voter intimidation, harassment and deliberate denial of access to their PVCs.

He added that such act amounts to what he called “electoral genocide”.

Utomi said such attempts at muffling and intimidating opposition parties are against the principles of democracy which according to the philosopher, Jurgen Habermos, in his ‘Public Sphere’ concept, promotes rational public conversation that is central to modernity.

If found to be true, he charged INEC to consider such act as a serious violation of the Electoral Act and should be accountable about dealing with it.

While recalling the successes of the Big Tent group in forming  State excos through congresses as a way of having a formidable structure across the federation, Utomi urged the members and supporters not to rest on their oars but focus on fighting the challenges before them and the Labour Party generally, to ensure success at the poll.

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“The report of making it difficult to collect PVC, If you are perceived to be of a group that might not be sympathetic to a preferred order is highly disturbing and dominions Hong of our democracy. 

“INEC must consider this abuse a violation of the electoral Act and act in an accountable manner on the matter. 

“Tearing up the posters of others and beating up citizens for wearing vests of other Parties is far from civilised conduct and unbecoming of people who claim to be progressives.

“The use of area boys and toughs to intimidate and threaten voters in Lagos is said to reach proportions of taking some people to the international criminal court,” Utomi stated.

He charged members of the group to raise the issue whenever they occur in order to have a positive change, adding that a new modern Lagos “ought to be an arena of democratic freedom.”

Utomi further noted that the last Saturday policy dialogue telethon programme organised by the Big Tent Campaign for the Obi-Datti, hosted on live television, offered opportunity to dissect the Labour Party’s manifesto, going beyond mere promises unto demonstration of how the goals will be achieved by the duo of Peter Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.

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He disclosed that another programme is already being planned to offer a more robust engagement on the areas in the manifesto not covered in last Saturday on issues the team intend to tackle to make the country better if elected. 

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