Pro-democracy and non-governmental body, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of committing more “egregious and satanic crimes” than alleged billionaire kidnapper, Evans.”
HURIWA stated this while condemning the just concluded Saturday’s presidential election which saw President Muhammadu Buhari emerging as winner.
The body described the just ended presidential and National Assembly election as a “charade and a monumental travesty of justice.”
In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the Head of Legal, Barrister Sylvia Nneka Okonkwo, and made available to newsmen, yesterday, HURIWA urged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar to “explore the legal option which he has opted for.”
HURIWA said in terms of categorizing the crime committed by INEC in manipulating the outcomes of the Saturday’s elections in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) officials of the electoral umpire “committed a more egregious and satanic crimes than the alleged billionaire kidnapper, Mr. Evans.”
The group, therefore, wondered why on one hand, some persons, including government officials are celebrating over the massive electoral thefts done by INEC but are silent or supportive even as Evans the kidnapper is being prosecuted.
HURIWA said the double standards shows that Nigeria was an unjust community of individuals that support travesty of justice committed by elite but would very rapidly carry out mob justice on petty criminals.
The rights group expressed pessimism that with the “near destruction of judicial independence by President Muhammadu Buhari through the unconstitutional suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Samuel Kanu Onnoghen over nebulous charges and his (Buhari’s) persistent disobedience of several court orders in the cases of erstwhile national security adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki and the leader of Shiites Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zackzacky, a recourse to the justice system may not effectively redress the perceived electoral heist suffered by the leading opposition figure.”
The body also accused Buhari of deploying the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Department of State Services (DSS) to intimate and sow fear in the minds of judicial officers.
Against this backdrop, HURIWA charged Abubakar to “invest his resources and time towards building constructive and formidable opposition platform that would galvanize the public towards actualization of holistic electoral reforms to guarantee free and fair polls in the future.”
HURIWA described the presidential poll conducted by the Yakubu Mahmood-led INEC as “the most predatory and roguish political enterprise that has ever happened in the twenty century world.
“The election was anything but peaceful, transparent, free and fair, just as the collation of results at the national level was choreographed to appear like a scenario whereby a robbery gang took their time to allocate the looted fund to themselves whereas the victims are left to agonise and pass through trauma. The European and so-called observers from ECOWAS; AU and Commonwealth were bribed to endorse the sham elections by INEC.
“The election witnessed the most brazen acts of deprivation of the right to vote technically and systematically implemented by INEC against the southern voters and most especially, voters bearing Christian names because of the widespread perception that Christians would normally not vote for a government that did nothing to stop the genocide against them by armed Fulani herdsmen.”
HURIWA condemned the electoral violence that trailed the polls in Kogi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Lagos and the deliberate disenfranchisement of Igbo voters in Lagos and Sabon Gari, Kano by the political godfathers of those states in collusion with INEC.”
The body stated that the pains of the manipulation of the election may take years to heal but the group called on like-minded ideological citizens to organize themselves and champion the cause of achieving total electoral reforms to make the electoral body truly independent.”
It also called on the police to arrest and prosecute all those who disrupted the polls as captured by the vigilant cameras of patriots Nigerians which are circulating on verified accounts of several credible statesmen and women of truth.
“Sweeping the organized crimes that happened during the elections behind the carpets of impunity is no longer an option. We condemn all those who are gloating and celebrating over the results of the election which in all honesty is worse than the crimes ascribed to the Evans the Billionaire Kidnapper,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, a transparency organisation, Connected Development (CODE), yesterday, urged appropriate authorities to investigate all allegations of violence and cases of violent acts, during the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, in accordance with the rule of law and bring perpetrators to justice.
Head of Mission, CODE Election Observation Team, Mr Hamzat Lawal, made the call while presenting the final report on the Presidential and National Assembly Elections and the way forward in Abuja, yesterday.
“CODE strongly condemns election-based violence which resulted in the burning of thumb-printed ballot papers in Isolo Local Government Area in Lagos. It also resulted in the killing of a young voter at a polling unit in Dekina Local Government Area in Kogi; death of two persons in Nembe, Bayelsa; the death of 16 people in Rivers and injuries to citizens.
“The Nigeria Police stated that it would be responsible for the protection of electorate and would deploy, at least three officers each at the 119,973 polling units across the country. However, this level of preparedness was not reflected as Uzabe (a real-time technology) recorded many polling units having one security attached and in some places, there were none. CODE is disheartened by the poor level of preparedness shown by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct violence-free elections.”
Lawal alleged that INEC failed to ensure that there was no violence despite the week-long postponement of the elections that was supposed to allow for adequate logistics and security readiness.
The head of mission said security remained a prevalent challenge confronting the nation’s growth, adding that the electorate did not have to die at the cost of participating in the electoral process.
Lawal said that the Uzabe, a real-time technology for intelligence gathering and election monitoring, provided emergency incidents reports to security agents through its situation room.
He said that the technology also helped to minimise violence at polling units.
The team leader said that the Uzabe received more than 3,887 reports from on-the-ground observers and “online social sentiment analysts. From these reports, Uzabe established about 453 election incidents across 34 states in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Uzabe recorded issues of electoral violence, voter suppression, security personnel and party agents influencing ballots of voters, vote buying, underage voting and destruction of voting materials.
“These incidents were recorded in Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Kogi, Taraba, Bauchi, Borno and Yobe, leading to death of civilians,” the head of mission disclosed.
He, however, said that there were also reports of security agents restoring peace in areas where political thugs tried to incite violence.
Lawal urged security agents to do better at protecting the lives and property of the electorate, and at ensuring that no lives are lost during the electoral process.
“We cannot keep addressing issues of electoral violence except adequately prepare for these contingencies,” he said.
The head of mission, however, commended INEC for allowing the will of the people to be heard and remaining firm on its duty “regardless of pressure from political actors who wanted to truncate the electoral process.”
According to Lawal, through the Uzabe mapping tool, CODE established early warning systems for communities and voters, strengthened mitigation and emergency response during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
The report reads in part, “CODE had on ground observers and online social sentiment analysis who reported over 3,887 reports. From the reports, Uzabe were able to establish about 453 election incidents across the federation including the FCT.
“Uzabe received over 3,887 reports from on-the-ground observers and online social sentiment analysts. From these reports, Uzabe established about 453 election incidents across 34 states of the federation and the FCT.”
He commended INEC and security agencies over their professional conduct at the election.
“The CODE would also like to acknowledge the commitment made by various volunteers, the field observers, who sent in reports to Uzabe for public awareness to ensure transparency; their time and resources were critical to the conduct of an objective electoral process.
“CODE also commends Nigerians, particularly her youth, for their loyalty and resilience in the face of insurmountable pressure.”
The group further advised INEC to provide policies and regulations guiding campaign financing to enhance accountability of political candidates and also legal measures should be introduced to address abuse of state resources.
“Appropriate authorities should investigate all allegations of violence and cases of violent acts, as well as vandalism and destruction of election materials and electorates’ properties, in accordance with the rule of law, and perpetrators held legally responsible.”
According to Lawal, “in order to enhance confidence in the election process, INEC’s complete autonomy must be strengthened to ensure it provides more effective and objective electoral process; the organisation must develop result-management process using competent and secure technology; and provide a more conducive environment for collating results in regions.”
He added that, “There should be policies and regulations guiding campaign financing to enhance accountability of political candidates and also legal measures should be introduced to address abuse of state resources; INEC must introduce reforms that allow for Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote the candidate of their choice.
“Under-age voting is a violation of the Nigerian constitution and it is prevalent in some regions of the country. INEC must work to curb this issue as it serves as an indictment on the credibility of election process and ultimately a threat to our democracy.
“Party agents must learn to be cordial irrespective of political differences and must desist from inciting election-violence.
“Government must apply punitive measures in prosecuting criminals and perpetrators of election-based violence and security agents must do better in protecting lives and properties of the electorate and ensure lives are not lost during the electoral process.
“We cannot keep addressing issues of electoral violence except we adequately prepare for these contingencies,” he said.
Declare Buhari’s Seat Vacant, Owuru Urges Court
The candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) in the last presidential election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it to declare the seat of President Muhammadu Buhari vacant.
Owuru, who was among the four petitioners that went to tribunal to challenge Buhari’s re-election, in his fresh suit, sought for an order to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from “undertaking or planning any other election into the office of the President”, in 2023.
The Plaintiff, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/480/2021, maintained that Buhari is “an unlawful President that is illegally occupying the Presidential seat”.
It would be recalled that Owuru and his party, HDP, had in an earlier appeal they litigated up to the Supreme Court, insisted that the Justice Mohammed Garba-led Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, erroneously dismissed a petition they lodged against the return of Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the presidential election that held on February 23, 2019.
They specifically prayed the apex court to sack Buhari on the premise that he emerged through an illegal process.
According to the Appellants, INEC, failed to follow condition precedents stipulated in the Electoral Act, when it unduly postponed the presidential election that was originally fixed for February 16.
The HDP claimed that its candidate, Owuru, secured over 50million votes in a referendum that was conducted by both electorates and observer networks that were dissatisfied with the unilateral postponement of the presidential election by INEC.
However, in a unanimous decision, a five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, struck out the appeal for constituting “a gross abuse of the judicial process”.
Meantime, in the fresh suit, Owuru and his party argued that their suit against Buhari at the Supreme Court was inconclusive.
The Plaintiffs argued that the case was fixed outside the 60 days period that was allowed by the law.
Owuru asked the court to declare him the authentic winner of the last presidential poll, as well as, to issue an order for his immediate inauguration to take over from Buhari.
He prayed the court to declare that he is entitled to serve out a tenure of 4 years after his formal inauguration.
More so, the HDP presidential candidate, aside from asking for Buhari’s immediate removal from office, equally prayed the court to compel him to refund all salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected while he unlawfully stayed in office as President.
Owuru also asked the court to give an order that salaries, allowances and emoluments be paid to him from May 29, 2019, when he ought to have been sworn in, till date.
The Plaintiff further applied for, “An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Respondents by themselves and acting through their agents, servants, privies and or proxies howsoever from any further organizing, undertaking or planning of any other election into the office of the President of Nigeria or any such other Presidential Election interfering, harassing and or disturbing the Applicant adjudged acquired right as unopposed and unchallenged winner of the original scheduled and held the February 16 Presidential Election thereof until the 1st Applicant unserved constitutional four years term of office is served pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit by this honourable court”.
Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the matter were Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and INEC.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.
World Bank Report Exposes Buhari’s Lies, PDP Affirms
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the report by World Bank that 7 million Nigerians have been pushed into poverty in the last year, has clinically belied the integrity posturing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The opposition party said the World Bank report came in the face of the recent claims by President Buhari that his administration has lifted over 10 million Nigerians out of poverty in the last two years.
The PDP asserted that the report by the World Bank has further vindicated its position that President Buhari runs an uncoordinated and clueless administration that thrives on lies, false performance claims, deceit, and perfidious propaganda.
The statement added that, “Nigerians can now clearly see why the APC and President Buhari’s handlers are always in a frenzy to attack our party and other well-meaning Nigerians whenever we point to the poor handling of the economy and on the need for President Buhari to always be factual on pertinent issues of governance in our country.
“Unfortunately, it indeed appears that Mr. President enjoys living in denial while watching millions of Nigerians go down in abject poverty, excruciating hunger, and starvation as our country now ranks 98th out of 107 in Global Hunger Index under his watch.
“Otherwise, why would Mr. President claim that his administration has lifted over 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty while official figures even from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show worsening poverty rate with 142.2% growth in food inflation and over 82.9 million Nigerians being unable to afford their daily meals due to the failure of the administration to take practical steps to grow and protect the food sector?
“Under President Buhari, Nigerians are now subjected to the worst form of poverty and hardship, with collapsed purchasing power, occasioned by a voodoo economy management that has wrecked our productive sectors and pummeled our naira from the about N167 to a US dollar in 2015 to the current over N500 per dollar.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. President will choose to always bandy fictitious figures and false performance claims, when he has, in a space of six years, destroyed our national productivity and reduced our country to a beggarly nation, a laughing stock and object of pity among the comity of nations.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note President Buhari and APC’s similar false performance claims in other critical sectors, including power, transportation, road infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, security, aviation among others, where the Buhari administration has been bandying fictitious figures with no tangible project to point at.
“Our party counsels President Buhari, his handlers as well as their party, the APC, to note that Nigerians have seen through their deceitful clams.
“The PDP, once again, urges Mr. President to end his false performance claims and get more competent hands to manage the economy before every Nigerian is turned into a street beggar.”
Amnesty Kicks As FG Pushes Social Media Regulation
Amnesty International has strongly opposed the call by the Nigerian Government to regulate the use of social media and online broadcasters.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had urged the House of Representatives to include regulation of Twitter in the National Broadcasting Commission Act.
The minister made the call at the public hearing on a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House Committee on Information.
“I will want to add, that specifically, internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have responsibility to monitor content— including Twitter,” he said.
Reacting, Amnesty International, in a tweet via its Twitter account, yesterday, kicked against the motion.
It noted that when social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the internet and limit access to social media.
It further noted that criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“When social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the Internet and limit access to social media.
“Criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“Regulating social media in Nigeria could be easily abused to punish critics of government policies and actions, and anyone who asks difficult questions could find themselves liable for ‘diminishing public confidence in the government.’
“Seeking a law to prohibit abusive, threatening and insulting behaviour is open to very wide interpretation. This section would pose a threat to critical opinion, satire, public dialogue and political commentary,” the statement added.
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