POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE: LEMU COMMITTEE BLAMES BUHARI
In what appears to be subtle indictment of the Congress for Political Change (CPC), presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd), for the post 2011 elections that erupted in some parts of the country, the Federal Government investigation panel on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances, during it's presentation of final report to President Goodluck Jonathan said ethno-religious sentiments, negative campaigns and rumour mongering placed a big part in the crisis.
The chairman of the committee, Dr. Sheik Ahmed Lemu, during the presentation yesterday at the State House, Abuja, blamed some politicians including Buhari for the post 2011 elections violence that erupted in some parts of the country.
However, he added that the committee, not being a judicial panel, avoided indicting any individual or group.
The report of the panel which was turned in exactly five months the panel was constituted, attributed the violence, partly to the statement credited to the former military leader shortly before the election that voters should 'guard their votes.'
The report also blamed successive regimes for not acting on past reports on violence and civil disturbances, by bringing perpetrators to book, noting that it facilitated the widespread of impunity by perpetrators of crimes and violence in the Nigerian society.
Other factors listed by the committee include the desire for change as a result of failure on the part of successive regimes to tackle various challenges facing the country.
The next major cause of violence and disturbances, according to the report, is the lucrative nature of political office in the country.
According to Lemu, 'With regard to the remote and immediate causes of the election violence and civil disturbances, they are many. However, I crave the indulgence and patience of Your Excellency to allow me to mention a few of the major ones together with their consequences.
'The first and probably the most important major cause is 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 taken place in our nation. That failure facilitated the widespread sense of impunity in the culprits and perpetrators of crimes and violence in the Nigerian society.
'We recommend to Your Excellency to order security agencies to fish out culprits of violence for prosecution. Your Excellency should also revisit those previous recommendations like the ones contained in the following reports.
1. Babalakin Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Bauchi State Civil Disturbances
2. Karibi Whyte Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kafanchan Disturbances
3. Niki Tobi Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances
4. Justice Snakey Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Wase and Langtang Disturbances
5. Justice Disu Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances
6. Professor Tamuno Panel of Inquiry on National Security
7. Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee.
'People indicted by the committees and commissions concerned should be prosecuted. These recommendations are based on what the panel observed from many victims of those previous disturbances which are nursing reprisals and have only been waiting for the slightest excuse to move into action which some of them did during the 2011 election violence and civil disturbances
'The second major cause of the recent electoral violence 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 throughout the nation, bribery and corruption which have virtually been legitimized in all affairs of our nation.
Thus with regard to the remedy of bribery and corruption, we recommend that the Heads of the Three Arms of Government as well as other major stakeholders in Nigeria should come together and agree on the most effective way forward to avoid the impending catastrophe.
'Similarly, general insecurity of life and property in people's houses and on the highways 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. In fact, the current sporadic demonstrations in educational institutions and by labour unions are all considered to be signals of more serious negative events to come. This assertion could be verified for your Excellency by the security agencies.
'The next major cause of violence and disturbances 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 us or wrote to us about the issue to be 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, are providing many foot soldiers ready for recruitment at a cheap rate. The security agencies could verify this assertion also.
'Generally speaking, the basic cause of the violence in nearly all the communities concerned is political. Ethno-religious sentiments were brought into the issue through negative campaigns and rumour mongering by unscrupulous individuals to achieve their ulterior motives.
'Similarly, the zoning controversy, which started basically as an 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.
'Provocative utterances by many individuals and the widespread charge by prominent politicians including the CPC presidential candidate to the electorate 'to guard their votes' appeared to have been misconstrued by many voters to include recourse to violence which they did. However, a long interactive session was held with the CPC presidential candidate and five member delegation of the panel, led by the chairman, in the office of the CPC presidential candidate in Kaduna on 14th September 2011. It was discovered that he himself was a victim of the violence and of the destruction of his property the photographs of which were given to the said delegation.
'For all the causes identified by the panel, the declining spirit of God consciousness and of accountability before God, very low moral standard as well as social indiscipline in the Nigerian society are all considered to be the major facilitating factors.
'Although in the opening clause of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria we resolved firmly and solemnly 'to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God' we failed to make any effective and all embracing provision for the same nation to be God-fearing or conscious of accountability before God. And so, the panel recommended that basic education curriculum in Nigeria should henceforth contain – as a compulsory learning material for all the students – the moral values of God fearing and of accountability before God which are derived from the Islamic and Christian teachings as well as civic and cultural orientation in line with section 23 of the Nigerian Constitution.
'With regard to weapons used, they are largely knives, axes, cutlasses, clubs and similar objects in the northern states. However, in Akwa Ibom there was a tide of illegal flow of sophisticated weapons into the state, which were used in the violence. Thus we recommend 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. Further recommendations on the issue of arms control are contained in Chapter 5 (Volume 2) of the Main Report.
'Considering that the panel is not a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, we avoided going beyond our jurisdiction to indict any individual or group of individuals. However, we presented the critical cases together with the supporting DVDs and relevant documents in a manner that security agencies could follow up to reveal more facts about the cases concerned and take appropriate actions.
The Panel also considered many other matters incidental to the unrest and gave recommendations which constitute Chapter Six in Volume 2 of the main report. Thus, the government should review the roles of the National Orientation Agency and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for more effectve public elightemnent , politically, socially and economically.
'We also considered the need to localise responsibility for purposes of preventive retribution. Thus, it is recommended that government should follow the example of Adamawa State which has made law to deduct for loss of life or damage to property from the fund allocation of the Local Government Area where communal violence may occur in the future'.
President Jonathan who commended the panel for a job well done assured that government was going to act on their recommendations and issue a white paper so that perpartrators of violence will face the law.
'We thank members of the committee for what you have done, it is not easy to accept such responsibilities and I believe most of you were advised by some members of your families why you choose to risk your life, if it is something that will bring money will they remember you? But all of you have agreed and have served this nation.
'What all of you have done is an important assignment the document you have given to us is not just an important document but are very critical and relevant to our political history as a nation. I know quiet a number of researchers will come and look for this to enrich some of their write ups.
'I won't say much but I have to thank you for your comprehensive speech, the speech itself is almost like a summary of what we will get from the report. I am indeed happy that you have looked at a number of areas, I am also happy that you have discussed with wide range of people, almost all the people that matters, all the key people you wanted to contact.
'Let me use this privilege to thank those who voluntarily discuss with you, gave you the information you required especially the party leaders and senior government functionaries, private sector operatives who voluntarily, willingly discussed with you and gave you their own perspective of the cause of the crisis.
'I agree with you that ignorance must have some of the basis of this crisis because looking at the result of the election, the states that I lost the election Kano and Bauchi where I had the least 16, 17 per cent were the ones that had most crisis.
'And that is why even if your recommendation you did not prescrib punshiment but your report is there for other government organs to look into. I am also more interested in the preventive aspect of the recommendation than the punishment aspect. Yes people who commit offences must face the laws of the land but how do we prevent subsequent occurrence is the key thing that is dear to me.
'When we were to conduct the election I said we will try and conduct an election that will be free and fair, at least internationally it has been accepted unfortunately we had this ugly incident.
'My interest is that in 2015 elections and beyond what must we do to make sure that what we experienced don't happen again. I am quiet pleased you concentrated in that area. You raised the issues bothering on power sector because without power you cannot empower people economically, the economic situation, the roads, corruption and other issues, all these lead to one thing that if the economy improves and if people can go to school, surely some of these ugly incidences will be minimized and I agree with you.
'The social issues, of course you mentioned something bothering on compensation we will look at it. You also mentioned the national orientation agency, we have been discussing we have to strengthen that agency to work closely with the ministry of information because government has a number of radio and TV stations in every state and we believe they should be able to use these stations to engage to enlighten and educate Nigerians on security.
'I assure you we will follow your recommendations. You did mention that some of the problems are that when recommendations are made to government, government hardly implement them. They will make speeches, make pronouncements, then the media will carry it then lock them up, though some recommendations may be difficult for implementations.'
But we have decided that even in the Jos crisis in fact just this morning I was saying to the Secretary to Government of the Federation, we have set up a committee we are going to look at all the recommendations and we must issue white papers heavens will not fall. Until government has the political will and encourage to do what is right no matter how painful it will be, the culture of impunity will continue and we want to reduce that culture of impunity so we will look at your recommendation, the Federal Executive Council will look at it and come out with a white paper'