The Real Cost Of Rivers State Re-Run Elections
The setting up of Judicial Panel of inquiry over the 19th March 2016 re-run election mayhem by Gov. Wike is timely but a coroner is also necessary. Among the numerous challenges of constitutional democracy is the cost of governance. Governance is contemporary and critical social science which has become topical because of the increasing use of corporate social responsibility as global parameter.
Even in economics cost is significant in determining how scarce resources are prioritized and allocated. Apart from Naira/Dollar equivalent of the product or services as measuring standards, the cost of alternative choice forgone is actually the REAL cost. That is the opportunity cost.
Can we now wish that if we had failed to hold the re-run election we would have failed to shed blood of Nigerians as President Jonathan will say. In addressing the cost of governance therefore includes the monetary value of conducting elections with tax payers money from local good to national general/re-run elections. To say that elections are costly is only stating the obvious.
The percentage of cost of election to GDP is also very high. The more efficient the planning, organizing and execution of these elections the more cost0-effective. Since the emergency of Prof. Atahiru Jega to Prof Mahmud Yakubu as INEC Chairmen, the cost of electioneering has sky-rocketed. The answer appears to be that more efficient but more costly devices/procedures have been introduced. What would have amounted to rigging safely sealed have recently became “inconclusive” or “re-run” elections. The phenomena have become common place that there is hardly any state in the country that has not witnessed inconclusive or re-run elections.
However, some states like Rivers State have had more than a fair share of the incidence. The Court of Appeal ordered re-run elections in Rivers State on 19th March, 2016 is a reminder that elections remain gun-powder waiting to explode. When a re-run election becomes inconclusive with all the cost implications, loss of numerous lives and destruction of valuable infrastructures you wonder how many more lives and cost are required to conclude an election that was postponed sine die.
In response to the death of a soldier, a copper Samuel Chidumebi Okonta INEC ad-hoc staff and about 18 PDP members during the re-run election, PMB was reported to have said it was shameful and described Rivers State as the deadliest place in Nigeria. He is entitled to his opinion but the facts speak for itself. Bauchi for instance in 2015, 9 corpers lost their lives, with thousands internally displaced. Members of Executive council are old enough to know this.
Violence before, during or after elections affects the integrity and credibility of votes cast and the political positions they represent. Similarly, in Niger State there were death tolls following the 2015 general elections, as well as in Yobe State among others. Pre and post-election violence were recorded as much as during the elections.
According to records made available to INEC about 58 deaths had been recorded before the commencement of the 2015 general election. In 2011 when PMB lost under Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) widespread violence erupted in most Northern States leading to the death of about 800 persons with thousands of families forced into refuge camps.
When these mishaps occur government usually empanel one or two committees to fathom the causes and recommendation just as Gov Wike has just done. They have often identified causes of violence and other offences as well as producing volumes of recommendations but no sanctions imposed on offenders/perpetrators. In spite of widespread condemnation of the offences no effort is made by relevant authorities to prosecute those fingered in the mayhem. Some of the reasons given for failure include lack of enabling law. But that appears to be curious.
How do you identify conducts that amount to electoral crime when there is no law that criminalizes them? The 1999 constitution stipulates that no one shall be charged for offences not establish by the extant law. I am aware that criminal and penal codes both criminalized several if not all the offensive conducts exhibited during elections. Even the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 beside Electoral Acts as amended captured all the offences. To say that there is no enabling law is lame.
Civil Society Organizations have been on the fore front of advocacy for action to check the upsurge of violence and lawlessness during elections but not much progress has been achieved. Rather the atmosphere of impunity prevails at elections. And one wonders who stands to benefit from political office with widespread blood bath.
Perhaps it is a reminder of what could have happened if former President Jonathan had resisted change. Human Rights experts believe that electoral violence is the off-shoot of corruption. A symptom expressing a failed state or lack of confidence in the efficacy of the super structure, especially failure of the remedial institutions to deliver.
The law in its authoritative dominion often make room for exception and self-defense. But I dare say that the negative and destructive conducts can hardly fall within these waivers. The new INEC Chairman Prof Mahmud Yakubu in collaboration with the Federal Government and the Attorney-General of the Federation should take a firm stand against politically motivated killing, and use Rivers and Bauchi States as case-studies, in order to device procedures to ward-off perpetrators of violence and in case of violation of the procedures sanction those offenders to serve as deterrent and the efficacy of extant laws.
Iyke Ozemena Attorney IKECHUKWU O. ODOEMELAM & CO Corporate Attorneys/Consultants