A bold step towards sanitising the electoral process was taken yesterday, with the indictment of 66 individuals and organisations allegedly involved in poll crimes in 2007 and 2011.
They were said to have been involved in either criminal offences or administrative, judicial and professional misconduct.
Among them are former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Prof. Maurice Iwu, former governors Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Oserheimen Osunbor (Edo), Clarence Olafemi (Kogi), former Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Prof. C. E. Onukogu, Senator Hosea Ehinlanwo (Ondo), Senator Ayo Arise (Ekiti), Mukhtari Shehu Shagari and Chief Adefemi Kila.
At the presentation of a 284-page report on the 2007 and 2011 elections in Abuja yesterday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) urged the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector-General of Police, INEC and other relevant institutions to punish those indicted.
The report released under NHRC’s “Electoral Accountability Project/End Electoral Impunity Project” recommended prosecution and disciplinary measures for them.
There were 118 indictments, categorised as criminal indictment (20 cases), criminal/administrative (49), administrative (38), administrative/ judicial (4), professional (3) and judicial (7).
Others indicted are the late Major Gen. Abubakar Tanko Ayuba, Aminu Sule Garo and Mr. Tarzoor Terhemen. Patrick Ashagu Ebinny named in relation to Nasarawa West state constituecy election. In 2007; Abubakar L. Abdullahi; The returning officer, Isuikwuato/Umunneohi Federal Constituency in 2007 elections, Felix Osaigbovo (INEC Presideng Officer) in relation to the Ovia North East 1 Constituency Lection in Edo State in 2007, Umar Abdullahi (1st respondent in the case between Umar Ahmed Sule & another vs. Umar Abdullahi & others in petition no: GMS/EPT/HR/2/2011 in relation to the Dukku/Nafada Federal Constituency election of 2011.
A police officer, ASP Christopher Oloyede and two lawyers -G. A. Adetola Kazeem (SAN), the late Mr. James Ocholi (SAN),Chief Adefemi Kila were also named in the report.
Olafemi’s name featured in the report in relation with the case of Alara Aberoran & another vs. Hon Clarence Olafemi &17 others (petition No: NALGH/KG/15/2007) over heard by the National Assembly/governorship and legislative houses election petition tribunal, Lokoja.
The tribunal, in its findings, was said to have indicted Olafemi for criminal offence. Part of the tribunal’s finding, quoted in the report, states: “ the petitioners have proved beyond reasonable doubt that the 1st respondent ( Hon. Clarence Olafemi, leading his agents and thugs did commit acts of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act by disrupting the conduct of election, harassing and intimidating eligible voters, who were sent away from polling units without voting.”
Osunbor is named in the case of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole & Action Congress (AC) vs. INEC & 18 others in petition: EDGV/EPT/1/2007 in relation to the Edo State governorship election. He was said to have been indicted in relation to the alleged criminal and administrative offences committed by security and INEC officials during the election.
Part of the tribunal’s findings quoted in the report states: “Seventh, there is the recurrent issue of those mentioned, who were wither employees of INEC or members of the 3rd and 4th respondents (Osunbor and PDP). There were no serious efforts to clear their names. It needs to be re-emphasised that those named are said to be members of the 4th respondent, who sponsored the 3rd respondent.
“Whatever acts perpetrated by those named in furtherance of election of 3rd respondents under 4th respondent are acts of 3rd respondent and 4th respondents. It goes beyond the issue of 3rd respondent authorizing those acts. The combined effect of all these is that the
petitioners have proved the incidents of corrupt practices and non-compliance with Electoral Act against the two sets of respondents beyond reasonable doubts in the local government areas in dispute.”
Uduaghan’s name featured in relation to the case of Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru & another vs Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan &others in appeal No: CA/B/EPT/38/10 in relation to the state’s governorship election, decided by the Court of Appeal, Benin division. He was indicted under administrative and judicial misconduct.
In the judgment, part of which was quoted in the report, Uduaghan was found to have benefited from votes “not obtained through due process.”
Part of the judgment reads: In the circumstance, we have no choice than to enter an order dismantling his (Uduaghan’s) over three and half years’ illegal occupancy of the Government House which is the very symbol of the people’s mandate; indeed, his illegal habitation of the said Government House for the said period of time is a mockery and indeed, an affront to the indefeasible rights of the electorate in Delta State.
“It is unfortunate that the law would permit this sort of anomalous situation, an unfortunate situation, where a man , who usurped the sacred mandate of the people would be allowed to fritter away their common patrimony without their due authorization that should come through free and fair elections.”
Iwu’s name featured in the appeal by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar vs. Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, reported as as (2008) 4 NWLR (pt 10780) 465 (SC), a presidential election appeal decided by the Supreme Court. He was indicted for administrative misconduct.
Part of the judgment quoted was where Justice Niki Tobi (late) said: “In the instant case, the Court of Appeal was wrong in rejecting the application to administer interrogatories on the ground that it would impede speedy trial of the case. Accordingly, I am of the firm view that Prof Iwu should answer the 27 questions.”
Arise’s name featured in relation to the case of Ayo Arise & another vs. Olubunmi Adetunbi & others, in the appeal marked: CA/IL/EP/SEN/27/2008, in relation to the Ekiti North Senatorial Election of 2007 for being a beneficiary of a flawed election.
Mukhtari Shehu Shagari featured in the report in relation to the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the case between Alhaji Muhammadu Maigairi Dingyadi & another vs. Aliyu Magatakada Wamako & others in appeal No: CA/K/EP/GOV/60/2007
Prof Onukogu (resident Electoral Commission, Anambra State in 2011 was named in relation to the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Enugu division in the appeal by Ezekwelu Tony Uche vs. Barr. Ebelel Obi & others in the appeal marked: CA/E/EPT/66A/2011.
Major Gen. Abubakar Tanko Ayuba (rtd)’s name featured in relation to the case over the Kebbi South Senatorial District election in 2007,where the tribunal voided his election on the ground that his replacement of the late Musa Bamaiyi violated the provision of the Electoral Act.
Adetola Kazeem’s name featured under alleged professional misconduct in his handling of the case between All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) & another v. The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Akwa Ibom State & others reported in (2008) NWLR (pt 1090) 453 CA, where Justice Saulawa was quoted as saying: “ it is instructive to note that the absence of the 2nd and 3rd petitioners’ counsel (Adetola Kazeem) from the tribunal on the said 25/10/07 was most reprehensible, to say the least.”
Ocholi’s name featured in the case between Yusuf v. Suntai (2010) All FWLR (pt 50020 1002 over the governorship election in Taraba State where Justice Ngwuta was quoted as saying: “It is the duty of learned counsel to use civil language in attacking the judgment of the trial court or tribunal. In the instant case, there is no evidence that the tribunal fished for fault in the case of the appellant, yet the appellant accused the tribunal of unfairness and unfairness and even handedness.”
The Federal High Court, Abuja, was indicted for under administrative and judicial misconduct for alleged highhandedness in its handling of the case between Barrister (Mrs Amanda Peters Pam & another v. Nasiru Mohammed & INEC reported as (2008) 16 NWLR (pt 1112) 1 SC in a judgment by Justice Goerge Oguntade of the Supreme Court.
Resident Electoral Officers in states like Ekiti, Kwara, Delta, Anambra and officials of INEC, who conducted elections in the states in 2007 and 20011 were listed in the report, but were not identified by names.
The NHRC’s Executive Secretary, Professor Bem Angwe explained, while presenting the report, that the exercise, which the commission said it undertook under Section 5 of the NHRC Act 2010, involved an independent review of evidence of gross violations of the rights to participate in government, to effective public service and to fair trial in the country.
He said the project was intended “to bring to account persons indicted by the election petition tribunals and appellate judicial bodies for infracting electoral and related laws during Nigeria’s recent election cycles.
Angwe said a committee established by the commission for the project was mandated to “review available election petition cases, extract any evidence of criminal or administrative indictments, recommend immediate and long-term measures towards curbing impunity in our electoral process.”
Chairman of the committee, Professor Nsongurua Udombana argued that electoral malpractices persist in the nation’s electoral process because the Judiciary, INEC and other agencies have failed to perform their roles.
He noted that where infraction of electoral laws were reported to the AGF and INEC, they hardly act, a development that continued to embolden politicians who see election as ‘a do or die affair.