BY EMEKA MAMAH & VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
IN a bid to avoid the crises that trailed the post 2011 presidential election results violence which claimed the lives of no fewer than 520 persons, the Human Rights Monitor, Thursday, urged the National Assembly to further amend the 2010 Electoral Act, to ensure the trial of electoral offenders in the country.
According to the former Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Ringim, apart from those who lost their lives following the protests that swept most of the northern states, 75 other civilians were also injured, while 1, 442 houses and 218 worshop houses including 165 churches and 53 mosques, were burnt.
This is even as the Bini Truth Movement 2012, has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over its plans to prosecute over one million suspected electoral offenders arising from the 2011 voters’ registration and general elections.
The group, in a statement by its publicity secretary, Dr. Efosa Osazuwa said “the essence of prosecutions, convictions and the terms imposed on convicts is deterrence. The Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, would also do INEC good by collaborating with it to facilitate the prosecution which we advised should be made public because, if the public don’t know then deterrence is lost.
But Okoye said that apart from the human beings that were killed, 444 vehicles were either burnt or destroyed, just as 22, 141 people were displaced. Altogether, about 1,660 private and public property including 45 owned by the police, six government properties and 987 shops were burnt during the voilence.
The HRM’s ‘’Report on Tracking the Arrest and Prosecution of Electoral Offenders and Outreach Programmes on the 2011 Elections,’’ released in Kaduna yesterday, regretted that 294 suspects were arrested by security agencies for the huge destructions, aside other electoral offences, pointing out even at that, only very few of them were actually arraigned in court for trial.
Okoye blamed the situation on Section 59 of the said Electoral Act which gave the power of arrest and prosecution of offenders to electoral officers or the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, thereby excluding security agencies.
According to HRM, in the report signed by its Executive Director, Mr Festus Okoye, security agencies use the said section in the Act as alibi for largely doing nothing when electoral crimes are being committed even in their presence, pointing out that, of about 294 electoral offenders who were eventuall arrested by the Army and other security agencies between January and March this year in 18 states and Abuja, only three were successfully prosecuted.
The states include Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ekiti, Oyo and Ogun.
’’Although the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the different Penal Laws in different states list electoral offences and other offences bothering on ordinary crimes, the prosecution of electoral offenders and others who commit crimes related to elections has been a sore point in the electoral process.
’’The direct consequence is that the ordinary people disengage from the electoral process as very few people would want to go to the polling units to be maimed and killed by political thugs.
’’Electoral impunity also creates a regime that is illegitimate and does not command the confidence of the people and that of the international community.
’’It leads to political and economic instability as those robbed of their victory may employ legitimate and illegitimate means that overturn the said election.
’’Unfortunately, impunity and the atmosphere of impunity persists because the various governments and political parties have trained and cuddled electoral offenders depending on their political affiliation and this accounts for why political parties depending on their areas of suzerainty engage in the same malpractices and fraud.
’’The NASS should therefore, pass the Electoral Offences Commission, EOC, Bill as the Bill makes provision for the creation of a separate Commission to handle the arrest and prosecution of electoral offenders,’’ he added.