Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The report of the Technical Working Group set up by the National Human Rights Commission to carry out an independent review of evidence of gross violations of the rights to participate in government has been presented to the public.
The review, which is also known as End Electoral Impunity Project, seeks to bring to account persons indicted by the election tribunals and appellate judicial bodies for infracting electoral and related laws during Nigeria’s recent election cycles.
The 284-page report indicted various politicians, some political parties, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as law enforcement agents.
It quoted from the judgments of election tribunals and appellate courts the specific portions indicting those listed above.
In preparing the report, the Technical Working Group constituted by the NHRA and chaired by Professor Nsongura Udombama relied on 2,731 certified judgements from the registry of the Court of Appeal covering 2007 and 2011 judgments.
“From the review of these cases, over 700 judgments disclose various violations,” the report said.
Although there were many violations, the group said it retained only 118 that it considered serious enough to sustain criminal prosecution or administrative sanction.
Speaking at the public presentation of the report, Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, said the commission would forward the names of individuals and institutions indicted by the tribunals and the courts to the federal government for prosecution.
Angwe said names of INEC staff indicted would also be forwarded to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for prosecution or for administrative measures to be taken against them.
Angwe said it was with a view to bringing those indicted for violating electoral laws to justice that the project was set up by the commission to conduct an independent review of evidence of violations of the rights to participate in government and fair trial through the election petition process in Nigeria.
Following the presentation of the Initial Report in 2014, he said a preliminary list of the names of indicted persons and institutions was made available to the AGF and state Attorneys General for further investigation and possible prosecution for electoral crimes.
He also said the list had been upgraded and would be sent to the AGF and state Attorneys-General so that persons and institutions indicted were held accountable for their infractions during the 2007 and 2011 elections.
He said: “Unless steps are strengthened to deal with electoral impunity, the right to vote and be voted for and related rights will continually be infringed upon with adverse consequences on democratic governance in the country.”
He observed that political parties were critical stakeholders in the electoral process in the country and urged them to be vigilant before presenting their candidates to INEC for an election.
In a brief presentation of the, “End Electoral impunity Project” report, the chairman of the Technical Working Group, Nsoguruwa Udombana, said the group conducted public hearings in Port-Harcourt and Abuja in July 2014 which led to the 284 pages of the report.
“From the initial review of the cases, the TWG identified 200 cases of various infractions of the right to participate in government. Out of these, at least 81 cases contained specific indictments against named persons or institutional actors, including INEC, some political parties, their agents, some politicians, security agencies, lawyers and even judicial officers,” Udombana said.
The report, he said, observed that there existed huge gaps in the constitution, the Electoral Act and other election laws in the country, which he said INEC, politicians and other individuals exploited to violate the rights to participate in government, to effective public service and to a fair trial.
He said the election petition processes which have become matters of course rather than a remedial measure contributed in stripping Nigerians of their right to choose their leaders and instead transfers powers of the people to courts, lawyers and judges.
This, he said had exposed the judiciary to credible multiple pervasion and corruption adding that, it would be in the interest of the judiciary to re-balance its involvement in election petitions.
He said: “Because of the over reliance on courts to determine political office holders, the judicial system have become susceptible to corruption by those seeking power, resulting in uneven or discriminatory application of the law.”
Also speaking, an INEC commissioner, Prince Solomon Adedeji said impunity was the main problem facing the electoral process in the country.
He said INEC had so far conducted about 86 elections, but had been able to conclude only about six out of the 86 elections so far conducted and lamented that violence had found its way into Nigeria’s electoral process.