Symbol of justice
By Ahamefula Ogbu
The Federal Government Wednesday adopted the recommendation of Sheik Ahmed Lemu panel on post 2011 election violence in the country which White Paper recommended the setting up of a Special Tribunal to try electoral offences.
After deliberating on the White Paper as submitted by the review committee headed by Ms. Ama Pepple, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, also directed the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed Adoke, to liaise with the Inspector General of Police (IG) to proscribe all groups set up by politicians for use as thugs during elections.
The Council also decided that all extant laws on firearms should be reviewed with a view to having a tighter grip and control on their proliferation including smuggling such across the borders into the country, especially as the Lemu panel had named the types of weapons that were used.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, said the issue of civic education was already compulsory in public and private schools with a view to creating better cohesion among Nigerians.
“One of the key recommendations that council considered and approved is the establishment of special election offences tribunal to try people involved in violence before, during and after elections in the country.
“FEC reviewed what happened and the merits of this recommendation accepted this proposition to establish a special tribunal to specifically try election offences in the country.
“This, we believe, will make it possible for speedy dispensation of justice and it also ensures that all those who took liberty to spread violence to cause mayhem in elections in this country are not only brought to book but that the judicial process is to try them such that there will be orderly dispensation of justice.
“In addition to this, council took a look at the circumstances of what happened and the fact that in this country, during this democratic dispensation, we have had incidences where office seekers, particularly elective office seekers, used specialised youth groups that run like militia and these groups are believed, from all security reports sometimes, are involved in the escalation of violence.
“So council today (yesterday) directed the Attorney-General of the Federation to work with the Inspector General of Police to proscribe all youth groups that are set up specifically to be used as thugs during elections in Nigeria.
“This decision was taken in view of the fact that some of the violence we witnessed in this country are traced to these youth groups. Some of them in uniform specifically set up to molest people and other problems of insecurity in the country.
“In addition to this, the Lemu panel also recommended the need for civic education to enlighten the public to train our children especially in school principles and the right conduct,” Maku said.
Explaining more on the White Paper, Pepple said that parts of the recommendations were already being implemented like the job creation and youth empowerment through agricultural schemes and public works programmes, but added that the government would step some of them up.
She also said that the Council agreed that perpetrators of violence during should be investigated and tried, while areas like the Zonkwa, Goningora and Kafanchan axis where recurring violence have been recorded would have a police formation and barracks built.
She said that so far, assessment and valuation of losses from the post-election violence had been compiled in six states, while the team from her ministry was still awaiting the invitation of the remaining states to conclude the valuation and determine the level of compensation and rebuilding to be one.
“Government noted that already, the Federal Ministry of Education has made civic education compulsory to both public and private schools in the country. In addition to civic education that was recommended to INEC and other parts of governments to educate Nigerians on the serenity, the responsibility of citizens, the content of electoral acts and what is expected of us and conduct that will promote civil democracy to discourage violence and make our democracy and the process by which people go to court to seek redress rather than taking the laws into their own hands.
“One of the recommendations is that we should address the issue of job creation and youth development. Already, government had set up programmes like - YouWin, youth in Agric business and agricultural programmes, and public works programme. Government is taking steps to ensure that our youths are properly engaged; employed so that they don't become instruments in the hands of people that will use them to perpetrate problems during or after elections or any other time.
“We also approved that all those that have been taking part in violence should continue to be investigated, though already some of them are being tried to ensure that people don't take things for granted and believe that they can do things and go scot free,” she said.
On cattle grazing routes which have been a source of clashes between herdsmen and local communities, she said that grazing routes had been outlined and would be coordinated at the federal level by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to reduce the friction.
Also for the building of a renascent Nigeria, she said that people and politicians should watch their utterances and conduct themselves in a manner that would engender peace and oneness of the country, while factors that engender good conduct should be included in the Code of Conduct by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Asked if there was any name mentioned in the report that was indicted by the white paper and what the government intends to do about their prosecution, Maku replied that the panel was not set up to indict, but to ensure that there was no repeat of violence and that those who were apprehended for offences were being investigated and would be prosecuted.
He condemned the charge to youths to protect their votes, pointing out that in climes where democracy has taken firm root, reliance was on the court of law adjudicating and reversing injustices engendered at polling stations and therefore calling youths to violence in the name of protecting votes should be condemned.