Rivers state, Nigeria
A Nigerian policeman stands guard as All Progressives Congress party supporters march toward the Independent National Electoral Commission Office in Port Harcourt during a demonstration calling for the cancellation of the presidential election in the Rivers state on March 29, 2015. Florian Plaucheur/AFP/Getty Images

A Nigerian lawmaker appointed a commission Thursday to probe the election-related killings in Rivers state. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers state, said the nine-member body will investigate why the victims were killed, who killed them and the circumstances involved, Nigerian newspaper the Daily Post said.

“The reasons why the killings happened was because of impunity in the state. Total impunity,” said Amaechi, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) opposition party. “I believe as governor, if you don’t punish those who break the law, then human beings will no longer be protected. People were not allowed to carry out their civic obligation and responsibilities, just because [the perpetrators] are desperate to take over power.”

Nigeria’s electoral commission said this week there have been 66 incidents of violence at polling stations, with the highest number reported in Rivers state. At least eight people, including one police officer, were killed last week in the southeast state before polls opened for the gubernatorial elections, Leadership Newspaper in Nigeria said. Last month, the APC said 55 of its members were killed in election-related violence in Rivers ahead of the gubernatorial polls.

“These are human lives,” Amaechi said during the commission inauguration in Port Harcourt, the state capital. “The day I was driving to my village on March 28 for the presidential election, I saw a corpse at the median of the road.”

The outgoing governor told commission members they must carry out the investigation unabated and recommend appropriate penalties for the offenders, despite any threats made against them. “There will be threats, but your duty as a commission is to overcome these threats,” Amaechi said Thursday, the Premium Times reported. “First, you must be under the custody of the state and we will inform the commissioner of police to provide adequate security for them to discharge their duties uninterrupted.”

Rivers has been a stronghold in the oil-rich south of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP’s presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, won nearly 95 percent of the votes cast in the state on March 28, according to Agence France-Presse. Meanwhile, the ruling party’s governor-elect, Nyesom Wike, won more than 87 percent of the votes cast in the state on April 11, beating out the APC's governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside, the Premium Times said.

The southeast state was considered a flashpoint of violence and crisis in the run-up to the general elections. Rivers was the only state in Nigeria to massively protest for the cancellation of the presidential election results, and Amaechi claimed electoral preparations were compromised because the PDP interfered with the polls, News24 in Nigeria reported last month.