THE National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is on the right path in the exercise of its mandate, with its findings and recommendations on human rights abuses in the country. The commission, in a report to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) recommended various alleged election offenders for prosecution. Among the 41 indicted persons and institutions are a former Governor of Edo State, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, a former Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Clarence Olafemi, a former Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ekiti State, Mrs Ayooka Adebayo, and an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Christopher Oloyede. Also indicted were INEC, the police and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Some of the offences for which the named persons and institutions were indicted are forgery, perjury and breach of trust. The commission, in its report to the AGF, said the report is “in exercise of its mandate under section 5 which empowers it to refer any matter of human rights violations requiring prosecution to the AGF or of a state”. Accordingly, the list forwarded to the AGF contains names of “persons and institutions indicted for various offences committed under the Electoral Act 2006”. The report also quoted judgments of electoral tribunals and courts which indicted some of the persons named in their report.
We earnestly ask the AGF to make haste to prosecute all the persons and institutions indicted in the report, as a warning signal to potential electoral offenders during the 2015 elections. We also enjoin civil rights organisations to ensure that the AGF is not allowed to sleep on this matter. Indeed, Nigerians who desire free and fair elections must join hands to pressure the AGF to discharge his constitutional obligations in the overall interest of our fledgling democracy. For, until electoral offenders are made to face the consequences of their crime, it will remain attractive for desperate politicians and political parties to use all means to take over or retain power, in the name of elections.
We also unequivocally condemn the actions of the indicted institutions, particularly INEC, the police and the party that has controlled power at the centre since 1999, the PDP. The indictment is telling on how the PDP has been able to hold on to power, even when available evidence shows that the party has failed to perform. While the party should hide its head in shame, we encourage it not to hamstring the AGF from performing his constitutional role of bringing those indicted to justice. For, while the alleged electoral offences are already a slur on our democracy, we want the party to note that failure to prosecute the offenders is a greater indictment of our country as a lawless country.
It is also important that the prosecution should commence with the very notable persons indicted by the commission. Such an act will send signals to those who may be planning to rig the up-coming elections in Ekiti and Osun states, and more significantly, the 2015 general elections. It is also important that INEC should take immediate steps to weed from its fold those with the potential to further bring the commission to disrepute. The commission owes Nigerians the responsibility to cooperate with the AGF and civil rights groups to ensure a successful prosecution of the indicted individuals and institutions. After all, the alleged offences were primarily committed under its watch.
Also, the police and other sister security agencies must see the indictment as a wake-up call. They need institutional discipline, and an understanding that their mandate does not extend to helping the party in power win any election at all cost.
This article was first published in The Nation on April 28, 2014.
Last modified: April 28, 2014