Why Nigeria Must Prosecute And Punish Electoral Crimes Now
As a Country, we have shown no guts, commitment or capacity to punish electoral offenders; rather all we have ever had to do was come together, often, after every election to sermonize and mourn and brood over horrific election violence and killings. And right now, it is no longer safe and good enough simply to show sympathy or empathy to victims of electoral violence; or to even brush aside other electoral malpractices and offenses committed during elections as if they were norms and not prohibited by laws.
Nigeria needs to acknowledge that there is more to this current approach to electoral victory/success, through violence and crimes, and that the consequences are far too overreaching than what seemingly appears she would lose punishing offenders. There is no gainsaying that electoral violence, more than ever before, become far too commonplace in the last 2015 General Elections.
Buildup to the elections, the political parties entered into Peace Accords to reaffirm there commitment to nonviolent elections in the country. The accords were midwifed by both local and international institutions. On a more global platform, the International Criminal Court, ICC through it Prosecutor, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda charged Nigerians on the consequences of election violence, when she said:
"Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC's jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian Courts or by the ICC".
There is no gainsaying that there was high scale of electoral violence during the 2015 General Elections in the country, including maiming and killing of innocent, defenseless and unsuspecting citizens of Nigeria, and leading the league were Rivers and Akwa Ibom States. This position has been confirmed independently by local and international observers of the elections, especially the Nigerian Human Rights Commission; European Union; African Union, ECOWAS, American Embassy; United Kingdom; etc. Curiously, more than eighty (80) days since the last set of elections took place in the country, there has not been any arrests of suspects or police briefing or reassurance to the Nigerian people that investigations are either on going or would go on.
As usual, Nigerians are going about their businesses unperturbed and as if nothing went wrong, including those who ran elections and for whose sake these Nigerians were killed and maimed. But could this possibly be the true situation for the victims and the bereaved families. The answer is NO. THEY GRIEVE IN PAINS FOR THE LOSS OF BELOVED ONES BUT MOST PAINFULLY IS THE FACT THAT THEY WOULD NEVER EVER GET JUSTICE, YET THE CULPRITS STAND THEM IN THE FACE TO MOCK AND SPITE THEM. It is indeed a pain irony.
Today, I got a text message on my phone and it reads
"Gd moni sir, just to inform u dat d family of late Donatus. I. K. Dimkpa, has fixed his burial for sat. 4th July, 2015.. The boy dat was killed by XXXXX members during d last Presidential/National Assembly Election from Ipo. Venue: His Compound, Omuarike, Ipo Town Kelga, Rivers State. Hon. XXXXX
(For reasons of defamation and safety, I decided to conceal the name of the political party mentioned and the name of the sender).
On the 4th of July, 2015 members of that family may most probably BE LEFT LONELY, ALL BY THEMSELVES to brood over their son, who had gone out on that day to exercise his civic and constitutional obligation. And most worrisomely is the fact that THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT URGED HIM TO DO SO, YET IT FAILED TO PROTECT HIM, BOTH IN LIFE AND IN DEATH. What a pain. This is the same for all Nigerians who lost their lives during the election, the Corp Members who were killed in the North East, there offence been that they volunteered to conduct the elections. The least the Police can do for this brutally murdered young man is to provide security for his obsequies and FIND HIS KILLERS.
Needless to say that even the International Criminal Court, ICC has become even more lame and toothless than Nigeria. Both Nigeria and the ICC have shown perfect and preferred example of a paper-tiger. The consequences of such deliberate inactions or docility on the party of Government (Law Enforcement Agencies) are enormous. Crime thrives when criminals and offenders are not punished in accordance with the law. Nigerians and indeed Mr. President should ponder on the possible likelihoods, WHEN CITIZENS BEGIN TO CRUISE WITH THE IMPRESSION THAT THE MOST VIOLENT, FORCEFUL, BRUTAL, CRUEL AND MOST ARMS-BEARING IS LIKELY TO WIN AN ELECTION. This may lead to a situation where citizens would, in lieu of campaigns and persuasion, prefer to buy and stock arms to shot and fire themselves into power. That way, it becomes the man with the better firing power wins.
THE TIME TO APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE THIS NEW TREND IS NOW. GOVERNMENT MUST SPEAK BY ACTIONS AND LOUD ENOUGH THAT EVERY NIGERIAN MUST HEAR.... Action, they say, speaks louder than voice. NIGERIANS are "LISTENING"... and we want to "HEAR" your actions.
I'm not giving up on my country, NIGERIA, and I hope you won't either. Every voice is important.
LET US SPEAK OUT.
Lawyer and Development Analyst