Friday, May 18, 2012

Implement Lemu’s Report on 2011 Electoral Violence

It is a year now since the 2011 General Elections took place. By May 29, the beneficiaries of those elections into the presidency, Senate, House of Representatives, governorship and State Houses of Assembly will be rolling out the drums in celebration of their one year in office. Amidst this euphoria, it is important to do a soul searching and asked a pertinent question: What has happened to the perpetrators of electoral violence who embarked on wanton destruction of lives and property before, during and after the April 9 – May 6, 2011 nationwide polls? It is important to note that much as the 2011 General Elections ranked best in Nigeria’s chequred history of electoral democracy, paradoxically, it has also been rated as about the bloodiest in terms of human casualties and other mindless destructions. Human Rights Watch in a May 17, 2011 press release alleged that about 800 persons were killed and over 65,000 displaced across 12 Northern states in the post April 16, 2011 presidential election. HRW then challenged Nigeria's state and federal authorities to promptly investigate and prosecute those who orchestrated and carried out these crimes.

At a post election Experience Sharing conference organized by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre at Sheraton Hotel in Abuja on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, the then DIG Operations, in the Force Headquarters, Mr. Audu Abubakar who represented the former Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim said “No fewer than 5,356 people were arrested during and after the April 2011 General Elections in the country for electoral offences. Out of the number, 2,341 were arrested before the polls and 3,015 for post-election violence.” The poser is: What has happened to those apprehended by the Police for perpetrating this heinous crime against humanity? Left off the hook? Remanded in police custody? Being prosecuted in a court of law? Nigerians need to know.

After the polls, President Jonathan on May 11, 2011 inaugurated Sheikh Ahmed Lemu led 22 member presidential panel of inquiry to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incidences of electoral violence during the 2011 General Elections. The panel submitted its findings to the president on October 10, 2011. Eight months after, the report is still begging for implementation. Among several discoveries and recommendations of the probe panel are:

The failure on the part of the previous successive regimes since the military handover of power in 1999 to implement the recommendations of various committees, commissions and panels that had been set up. The committee highlighted previous reports that were ignored by government to include:  Babalakin Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Bauchi State Civil Disturbances; Karibi Whyte Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kafanchan Disturbances; Niki Tobi Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances; Justice Snakey Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Wase and Langtang Disturbances; Justice Disu Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances and Professor Tamuno Panel of Inquiry on National Security.

The committee opined that failure to implement earlier reports facilitated the wide spread sense of impunity in the culprits and perpetrators of crimes and violence in the Nigerian society. It then recommended to President Jonathan to order security agencies to fish out culprits of violence for prosecution.   The second major cause of electoral violence as identified by the committee was the existing widespread desire for change as a result of frustration and disappointment of many members of the general public regarding the inability of the successive past regimes to solve the problems of electricity power failure nationwide, deplorable state of federal government roads, bribery and corruption which have virtually been legitimized in all affairs of our nation.

The Sheik Lemu’s committee further observed that the general insecurity of life and property in people’s houses and on the high ways and kidnappings are fuel to the fire of public frustration and disappointment. “The true state of affairs could escalate to social revolution if preventive measures are not taken in time.”  The next major cause of violence and disturbances identified is the manner in which political office holders have ‘lucratised’ their respective positions at the expense of the whole nation. The panel discovered that the remunerations and allowances of the members of the legislature, in particular, are considered by stakeholders who addressed it as being outrageous. “It has turned politics in Nigeria to a do-or-die affair for which many politicians of all parties are seriously establishing private armies to execute. In that respect, easy access to drugs, serious general poverty at the grassroots level and youth unemployment, in particular, is providing many foot soldiers ready for recruitment at a cheap rate.”

The presidential committee also mentioned negative campaigns and rumour mongering by unscrupulous individuals as part of the triggers of electoral violence. The panel noted that “the zoning controversy, which started basically as internal political affairs of the ruling party, ultimately changed the nature of the presidential election into ethno-religious contest in the country particularly in the northern states.” The Sheik’s committee recommended strict enforcement of all the laws and regulations concerning use and trafficking of illegal arms while negligence on the part of the security agencies should be severely sanctioned to act as a deterrent.

Great job done! However, what milestones have been achieved by the Nigerian government in implementing this report. As rightly noted by the Sheik Lemu’s panel, the nonchalant attitude of previous administrations to reports of similar past enquiries was partly responsible for the outbreak of violence during the 2011 elections. Since the arrowheads and masterminds of previous electoral violence have read the government attitude correctly, no wonder the Edo governorship election slated for July 14 and the Ondo governorship election scheduled for October 20, 2012 are witnessing pre-election violence. Action Congress of Nigeria had accused the Labour Party of sponsoring electoral violence in Ondo State during the April 20 Adebayo Adefarati memorial lecture with the latter vehemently denying.  In the neighbouring Edo State, precisely on April 28, the convoy of Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole was involved in a ghastly motor accident which left three journalists in his press crew dead. Barely a week after, on May 4, 2012, Olaitan Oyerinde, the principal private secretary to Edo State Governor was murdered at dawn in his residence. These two incidences have been linked to politics ahead of the July 14 poll. Why all these assassinations and attempted assassinations persist is due to impunity surrounding previous electoral violence crimes. It behooves President Jonathan to dust up the Sheik Lemu’s report and see to its full implementation.