Nsirimovu: AGF must prosecute persons indicted in NHRC report
The Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mr Anyakwee Nsirimovu, told KELVIN EBIRI, that any politicians behind politically instigated criminality during elections should be prosecuted, to serve as deferent to others.
What should the government do with the NHRC report on electoral offences?
For the NHRC to devote time to pick out those involved in electoral offences, it is a plus for us, because as individuals and institutions, we all have a responsibility to our society. You don’t just sit back and wait for people to do things for you. NHRC has done a good job. I think the report should go to the Attorney General of the Federation and as the law officer of the federation, he should decide on what to do, looking at the face value of the report and the facts before him. And if there is need to prosecute those indicted as an example to others, let him go ahead. We are in an era where people who commit offences must be dealt with. People must face the law, otherwise, there will be no lessons learnt.
For me, he should implement this report. Let him look at it. Those indicted should be taken to court, otherwise, 2019 will come and people will go and behead people, they will go and kill and at the end of the day they will talk about amnesty. Since 1999, there has been those who in their quest for power, have resorted to snatching ballot boxes, even when they are caught, they have not been prosecuted and put through the law. This has made it possible for the kind of fraudulent elections that we have continued to have. It is not helping the need to deepen and consolidate our democracy. When people commit crime and nothing is done against them, it is an encouragement for politicians to continue to commit electoral offences. Politicians are behind politically instigated criminality during elections.
Should this government start prosecuting electoral offenders?
INEC has a responsibility in this regard. I understand there is an amendment on the Electoral Act before the National Assembly, so that some of these responsibilities can be taken away from INEC, because it is carrying a lot of burden.
If you create a special electoral offences court, so that these people can be prosecuted, that will be fine. This government can start from there. INEC does not have the resources to prosecute. INEC does not even have enough lawyers; they often depend on lawyers from outside to join them to handle cases. There are certain people who are being prosecuted at the moment, but INEC does not have the resources to prosecute these people.
An INEC ad-hoc staff, a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), was killed in Rivers State in March. His family lost out because nobody has been prosecuted till date. You heard of people beheaded during the said election. If you are the parent of an NYSC member, will you be happy to see them sent to monitor election in places where they will be killed and nothing happens? Killing of ad-hoc staff is the height of impunity.
INEC has responsibility to conduct elections. If the participants are not willing to participate in that election, they can withdraw. But what we have seen is that participants rather than going to polling units with their PVC, they go with machetes, guns, AK47. In that circumstance, there is nothing INEC can do. INEC is not security.
Since the political class is the ultimate beneficiaries of electoral offences, will they muster the political will to create special court to deal with electoral offences?
What is missing is that political will on the part of the leadership of this country to prosecute and that is where we are at the moment. Some of us are wholeheartedly in support of this administration in the sense that for the first time, no matter whose ox is gored, you can bring somebody to court for corruption and punish him and let him go through the rigour of prosecution with the hope that if he is found guilty, he can go to jail.
Until the political participants realises that if they are caught they will not benefit, things will begin to change. It is worrisome to see somebody who never won an election, sitting in your House of Assembly, sitting in your state government house and using state money to perpetuate himself in power. Since 1999, in Rivers state for instance, there has not been a credible election.