Arise petitions AGF, gives commission 14 days to withdraw allegation
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
A former Governor of Edo State, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, has faulted the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for including his name in the ‘poll offenders’ list’ released by the commission last week and recommending him for prosecution for electoral offences.
Osunbor said some people were using the NHRC to tarnish his hard earned reputation.
The NHRC released a report last Thursday under its “Electoral Accountability Project/End Electoral Impunity Project” in which it indicted Osunbor, a Professor of Law and 65 others, including organisations and security personnel as having committed electoral crimes in 2007 and 2011 general election.
Osunbor, who won the Edo governorship election in 2007 before he was sacked from office and Adams Oshiomhole declared the rightful winner of that election, challenged the NHRC to state which electoral violence he committed.
He said the commission replied that it based its decision on the tribunal ruling that sacked him as governor.
Osunbor was named in the case of Oshiomhole and 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.
But the former governor and two-time senator said he has sued the commission for asking him to be prosecuted for alleged electoral offences.
“If you read the judgment, my name was not mentioned that I committed any offence. There were people specifically mentioned in the judgment.
“Somebody is using them against me and I know the person. I have challenged them to tell me the offence I committed. They said said they are depending on the court judgment.
“Was I the only person removed by the tribunal? They should tell the world what offence I committed,” he insisted.
Also, former Senator Ayo Arise yesterday petitioned the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Malam Abubakar Malami, over his indictment by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for alleged electoral offences.
He also gave the commission a 14-day ultimatum to retract the allegation and publish same in seven major national dailies, failing which he said he would be left with no option than to immediately commence legal proceedings against it.
The commission had last week listed Arise who represented Ekiti North senatorial district between 2007 and 2011 in the Senate as one of the 118 Nigerian politicians indicted for electoral offences and consequently recommended them for prosecution.
Arise in a letter addressed to the commission and copied to the AGF, said it was appalling that a commission which ought to protect the fundamental rights of citizens had been the one violating them by deliberately denying him the right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) before announcing his indictment.
“I am quite appalled by the haste with which your Commission indicted me without conducting proper findings. The result is rather unnecessary confusion which has been generated by the report. In the first place, for a Commission which is meant to protect the Fundamental Human Rights of the average Nigerian, you failed to invite me to tell my side of the story, thus neglecting one of the most fundamental of Human Rights; the right to Fair Hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Even more appalling was your refusal to state which electoral offence I allegedly committed,” he said.
In the petition, Arise explained that he ran for an election into the Senate in 2007 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but the election was nullified by an electoral tribunal sitting in Ado Ekiti which ordered a rerun over perceived non-compliance with the Electoral Act following a petition by one of his opponents .
He said the tribunal did not indict him neither did it blame him for the allegation of non-compliance with the Electoral Act but rather put the blame on the doorstep of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “for adding and subtracting results from both parties.”
He further explained that the Appeal Court which sat in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, later upheld the judgment of the lower tribunal and consequently ordered a rerun within 90 days. He said he was dissatisfied by the Court of Appeal judgment but was left with no option than to by abide by it because it was the last court to hear the case.
However, Arise explained further that to affirm that he won the first election which was annulled, he again won the rerun election by a wide margin adding that the victory was so convincing that his opponent did not attempt to contest the second election any longer.
He said it was therefore provocative that a human rights commission did not only constitute itself into a law court but by its action, exalted itself above the appellate court which he said did not find him guilty of any electoral offence but only ordered a rerun over allegation of non-compliance with electoral law for which it held INEC responsible.
“The indictment therefore stands logic on its head in that while the court of final jurisdiction in the matter did not indict me for electoral offences, your commission seeks to bypass my constitutional right to fair hearing by basing its indictment solely on the fact that a re-run was ordered in my election. I would even go as far as referring to this needless cacophony as brand-name indictment/assassination.”
“Already, I have had to delicately and intricately explain to friends, business and political associates and family members that I am not an electoral offender. I am deeply grieved by this act of the Commission and hereby formally request that my name be taken off the report as I have never been indicted by any court as an electoral offender.
I also request a retraction by the Commission in seven national dailies including The Nation, Punch, Daily Trust and Thisday Newspapers. The retraction should be given the same prominence as your earlier publication in these dailies.
“Kindly comply with this request within 14 days from the date of receipt of this letter or I shall have no choice but to commence legal proceedings against your commission for defamation of character. I have also deemed it prudent to make a copy of this letter available to the Attorney-General of the Federation,” the letter read in part.