SERAP Wants ICC to Investigate Electoral Violence in Kogi, Bayelsa

SERAP Wants ICC to Investigate Electoral Violence in Kogi, Bayelsa

…As Falana Fears Increasing Thuggery Will Lead to Voters Apathy The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to investigate whether the persistent crimes of corruption, violence, and killings during elections in Nigeria, most recently in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and the repeated failure of the Nigerian authorities to

…As Falana Fears Increasing Thuggery Will Lead to Voters Apathy

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to investigate whether the persistent crimes of corruption, violence, and killings during elections in Nigeria, most recently in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and the repeated failure of the Nigerian authorities to address the crimes amount to violence against Nigerians and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

In a petition sent at the weekend to ICC Prosecutor, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, the organisation urged her “To push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, officials of the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and other actors who contributed to the corruption, violence and killings during the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In the petition signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation says, “The events in the Bayelsa and Kogi elections suggest criminal conduct within the jurisdiction of the ICC. If the results of the preliminary investigation suggest that further investigation is warranted, the ICC should work with Nigerian anti-corruption agencies on the matter. Election-related corruption and violence are not just minor infractions, they suggest serious crimes against Nigerians, in particular, crimes against humanity.”

“In the ICC case on Kenyan election violence, the culture of impunity was considered one reason why violence had been ‘normalised’ as a means of political struggle. We therefore urge you to investigate allegations of corruption, violence and killings in Bayelsa and Kogi elections, if the ICC is to contribute to preventing escalations in future elections, including the general elections scheduled to hold in 2023,” it says.

The petition reads in part: “The incidents of bribery and corruption, intimidation and violence witnessed in Bayelsa and Kogi states also strike at the integrity of the democratic process and seriously undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s oft-expressed commitment to fight corruption and end impunity of perpetrators.

“The desire for power at all costs by politicians undermines Nigerians’ rights to open, transparent and accountable government that respects human rights and observe the rule of law. Election-related corruption and violence make public officials susceptible to corrupt incentives.

“Corruption and violence in elections contribute to decline in the quality of the politicians occupying public offices, which in turn lead to bad governance.

“The Nigerian authorities over the years have been unwilling and/or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of election-related corruption, violence and killings, which in turn has promoted the sense of impunity and emboldened those politicians and their accomplices who continue to commit these crimes against the Nigerian people during election periods.

“Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001. SERAP therefore urges the ICC to use the example of its intervention in the Kenyan election violence in 2007 and 2008, which led to the ICC prosecution of perpetrators, including government officers, for crimes against humanity.

“The violent events witnessed in the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states suggest the lack of political will by the authorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to respect the sanctity and integrity of the electoral system and to apply criminal sanctions to perpetrators of corruption, violence and killings during elections.

“The events in Bayelsa and Kogi states also suggest the misuse of state resources for party political purposes apparently by the APC and PDP. Corruption and violence-tainted elections invariably produced would-be corrupt public officials, and lead to a vicious circle of corruption, mistrust, impunity, and deny citizens access to public goods and services.

“The Nigerian authorities and the leadership of the two main parties failed abysmally to ensure an election free of bribery, violence and intimidation in Bayelsa and Kogi states. The ubiquity of corruption and violence in Nigeria’s electoral process has made it very difficult to stop politicians from engaging in grand corruption, thereby contributing to decades of poverty and underdevelopment across the country.

“The Bayelsa and Kogi elections have denied Nigerians the right to clean elections. The right to a clean elections system will improve the integrity of government institutions, encourage citizens’ participation in the political process, and will promote freedom to a corruption-free Nigeria.

“The effective exercise of these rights by Nigerians requires a corruption-free electoral and democratic process, which in turn would empower the citizens to enjoy their right to their natural wealth and resources, as recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights both of which Nigeria has ratified.

“Corruption and violence free elections are essential for the effective exercise of citizens’ constitutional right to hold their leaders to account for corruption and to participate in the efforts to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.

“The Rome Statute in article 7 defines “crime against humanity” to include “inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury,” committed in a widespread or systematic manner against a civilian population. The common denominator of crimes against humanity is that they are grave affronts to human security and dignity.

“The elements that need to be established to prove a “crime against humanity “under article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute are that, the perpetrator inflicted great suffering or serious injury by means of an inhumane act; that the perpetrator was aware of the circumstances, and that the act was committed within a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population; and that the perpetrator knew or ought to know of that link.

“The consequences of corruption, violence and killings during election periods in Nigeria are similar to those of the offences in article 7(1). Senior government officials and other actors know well or ought to know that their failure to prevent corruption, violence and killings during election periods will violate Nigerians’ human rights and dignity.

“Corruption, violence and killings during election periods give rise to individual criminal responsibility of those suspected of perpetrating and/or failing to address the problems, as entrenched in the Rome Statute.

“The national authorities of the Court’s States Parties form the first line of defense in addressing crimes against humanity during elections, as they shoulder the primary responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of the crimes. But successive governments in Nigeria have been unwilling or unable to address the problems of corruption, violence and killings during elections and end the crimes against humanity.

“According to our information, the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states were characterised by widespread reports of vote-buying (ranging from N500 to N6,000), violent attacks on citizens and journalists, and outright stealing of ballot boxes by armed thugs hired by politicians apparently of the two major parties, the APC and PDP, suggesting grand corruption and brazen impunity.

“Nigeria has a long history of electoral violence, vote-buying, ballot-stuffing, and voter intimidation. Dozens of people were killed during the 2019 general election which returned President Muhammadu Buhari to power.

“In 2011, hundreds of people were killed in post-election violence. Nigerian politicians have failed to understand the seriousness of corruption, violence and killings during elections, and have been complicit in the commission of these crimes.”

Also alluding to the view that offenders of electoral violence should be prosecuted, Human Rights Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, has warned that if nothing was done to address impunity in the electoral system, Nigeria would continue to witness decreasing rate of voter turnout in future elections.

He said this while decrying reports of electoral violence in the Saturday governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States despite thousands of policemen deployed.

Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), spoke on Monday in Abuja, while speaking as a panelist at a Digital Voting Summit.

“We are talking about 34 per cent voter turnout in 2015″, NAN quoted him as saying

“If this trend of electoral brigandage, unprecedented electoral violence and thuggery continues, I am afraid in 2023, we will be talking of less than 10 percent of registered voters-turnout.

“Next time, you do not expect people to be willing to participate in a war, because election in Nigeria has become a war for the ruling class,” he said.

He said that in order to address the problem, those arrested for electoral violence in past elections, including that of Kogi, must be prosecuted and sanctioned.

Falana also stressed the need to get the elite, especially the youths involved in politics, saying elections were now left for rural and market women, while youths go to play football on election day.

He was also of the view that electronic voting would help to address violence and high cost of elections in Nigeria.

Hours after Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State was announced winner of the November 16 election, on Monday, thugs believed to be working for a popular party burnt alive the Woman Leader of Wada/Aro Campaign Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ochadamu Ward , Mrs. Acheju Abuh.

She was burnt alive in her home.

Chanting solidarity and victory songs, the thugs, according to neighbours, arrived her house around 2:10pm, “surrounded the place, poured petrol all over the house and set it on fire”.

They ensured that the woman never escaped from the house while it was burning.

Some neighbours said they watched in hiding as the thugs set the house on fire.

One of them said: “She tried to escape through a window but was prevented by the burglar proof. The thugs were also shooting in the direction of all the windows and doors so that she would not escape from the fire.

“She was shouting inside but there was nothing we could do as many of us could not go outside to challenge the thugs. We tried calling the police but nobody responded. She was screaming inside until her voice could no longer be heard. When the thugs saw that the house was almost burnt to ashes, they left, shooting”.

Spokesman and Head Communications, Wada/Aro Campaign Council, Faruk Adejoh-Audu, confirmed the killing.

He said it was unfortunate that the woman was killed in a gruesome manner for no reason at all.

He appealed to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to ensure the arrest of the killers.

The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), one of the accredited observer groups, deplored the prevalent thuggery that marred the elections in its report.

“Even though the Nigeria Police Force had initially reported that 31,041 personnel will be deployed to maintain law and order in Bayelsa State, this number was not visible at the polling units, and this paved way for different levels of disruptions by party agents and voters during the voting process.

“As the voting process progressed in some of the locations in Kogi State, armed men in security outfits moved from polling units to polling units shooting into the air, scaring off voters and snatching ballot boxes. Where boxes could not be carted away by the armed men, voting was disrupted, and ballots destroyed,” it says..

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