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Violence: How far can presidential panel go?

THE 2011 elections might have come and gone but

The election violence probe panel with President Jonathan and his vice.

not so for the agony trailing the polls. Many Nigerian families lost loved ones in some northern states during the post-presidential election mayhem.

Violence, which claimed many innocent lives erupted in some parts of the North after President Goodluck Jonathan was declared as the overall winner of the presidential elections. According to the figures recorded by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), many youth corps members from different states of the federation lost their lives in the process. At least 75,000 people were forced to flee their homes as a result of the violence and about 55,000 of them are in camps for the displaced, while the remaining 20,000 have been taken in by family members or friends.

As each day passed, prominent Nigerians had been calling on the Federal Government to look into the various killings and bring the perpetrators to book. As this calls continued, President Goodluck Jonathan raised a 22-man panel of inquiry headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu to probe the post election violence.

Members of the committee include Rev. Father Idowu Feron, Alhaji Muhammadu Danmadami, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, Mrs. Lateefat Okunnu, M.B. Wali and Dr. (Mrs) Timiebi Koripamo-Agary. The rest are President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, Alhaji Muhammed Ibrahim, Prof. Femi Odekunle, Ambassador Ralph Uwuechue, Alhaji Bukar Usman, Sheik Adam Idoko, Retired Maj General Muhammed Said, Barrister P.C. Okorie, Arc. Shamsumna Ahmed, Maj General L.P. Ngubane, Alhaji Sani Maikudi, Rear Admiral I. Hotou and a serving member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

President Jonathan said the commission would look into the post election violence in some parts of the North, fish out the culprits who would be brought to book and made to face the full wrath of the law.

However, as the panel begins work, one recurring question on the lips of some Nigerians is whether or not the recommendations of the team would not gather dusts on government’s shelves like past efforts.

Successive governments since 1994 had set up one panel of inquiry or the other to look into various crises ravaging some parts of the North but the recommendations did not see the light of the day. Oftentimes, it amounts to waste of funds, energy and time as such reports or recommendations are not always made public or implemented.

The list of such reports include the Federal Government’s 15-man panel of inquiry, which was raised to look into the Jos crises with the aim of restoring peace and order and halting the crises in Plateau State. President Jonathan raised the committee when he was vice-president and it was headed by Chief Solomon Lar. Other members included Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, Fidelis Tapgun and Senator  Ibrahim Mantu among other Northern prominent elders. Till date, the recommendations of that panel have neither been published or implemented, an inaction that has cast doubts in the minds of some observers on what would be gained from the latest exercise.

Between 1994 and 2010, there were several  panels of inquiry which reports were not implemented. For example, Prince Bola Ajibola Commission of Inquiry of 2008/2009; and Plateau State Peace Conference Report of 2004 are yet to be released.

A member of the Jos panel of inquiry in 2010, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande ,who spoke to Vanguard concerning the setting up of another panel by President Goodluck Jonathan, said the government needed to be more genuine in its readiness to finally solve the crises in the northern parts of Nigeria.

His words: “Probe should not be in isolation. To stop various violence in major parts of this country, we need to go back to the beginning, say 2001, to retrace our steps because I believe President Jonathan does not need party people. He needs not less than three to five credible Nigerians to look into the various crises in Nigeria and he should be determined to also take action on whatever that will be the outcome of the enquiry.”

He went further: “Nobody seems to be worried about commissions set up by Federal Government or State government anymore because all the time, it never worked. It has always been let us delay the matter and it will die down. But if President Jonathan really wants this panel of enquiry to work, he should get just three Nigerians that everybody knows and let them publicly go into the matter of crises in Nigeria and the government should be determined that at the submission of the report, it should not take more than 21days for them to act on it.

If this is done, then we will see that their intention is genuine. All these groups of party people looking into the crises, we have had that before and it never worked and until necessary steps are taken, we will continue to rigmarole without any remedy to our problems.”

Indeed, the Kaduna State Government said the Federal Government does not have the constitutional mandate to investigate the crisis in states. Secretary to Kaduna State Government, Mr Waje Yayok, said: “The Federal Government has no constitutional  mandate to investigate crisis in states because it was the mandate of the affected states to set up such commissions or panels in line with relevant sections of the constitution to look into their crises and Kaduna State Government would soon set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the April 18 post-election protests in the state.”

However, a group under the aegis of Independent Election Monitoring Group supported the move by President Jonathan. According to a statement by its President, Mr Festus Okoye, the IEMG said, “we express our support for your initiative to empanel a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the circumstances leading to the outbreak of the violence in the aftermath of the Presidential elections of 16th April 2011.”

With this development, mixed reactions have continued to trail the action of the President. And only time will tell how far the new body would go.


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