Category Archives: ELECTORAL VIOLENCE
Incidents of violence relating to voter registration, political campaigns, rallies and elections
On 28 June, the Nassarawa State Governor, Alhaji Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, identified mass poverty and the high level of unemployment as the key factors responsible for violence in the country.
He made the observation while receiving members of a sub-committee of the presidential panel on election-related violence, who paid him a visit in Lafia, capital of Nassarawa State. The panel is particularly investigating the violence that erupted in some northern states, shortly after the presidential polls.
Briefing the governor on the panel’s work, the leader of the sub-committee, retired Justice Samuel O. Uwaifo, said its terms of reference include unravelling the immediate and remote causes of the violence, ascertaining the number of lives lost and the magnitude of property damaged, as well as making recommendations to avoid any re-occurrence.
Justice Uwaifo said the panel has been broken down into three sub-committees, adding that his sub-committee is in charge of Nassarawa, Akwa Ibom and Niger States. He said his sub-committee would hold a public hearing in Lafia, and that its members would also visit some other parts of the state, including Doma, Keffi and Nasarawa, to assess the level of damage.
Urging members of the sub-committee to discharge their assignment with utmost responsibility, the governor pledged the support of his administration for their work.
On 1 June, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim reported that a total of 520 persons were killed in the violence that followed the April presidential election which saw President Goodluck Jonathan as the winner. According to him, 518, including six policemen were killed in Kaduna State while two persons were killed in Niger State.
The Inspector-General gave this figure during a review of the 2011 general elections, organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, in Abuja.
In his paper entitled “2011 General Elections Review: Experience-Sharing, Lessons Learnt and the Way Forward – The Nigeria Police Perspective,” presented on his behalf by the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 7 Headquarters, Felix Ogbaudu, the police chief stated that in Kaduna State alone, 22,141 persons were internally-displaced while 77 persons were injured. Still on Kaduna State, he added that “157 churches, 46 mosques and 1,435 houses were burnt. Four hundred and thirty-seven vehicles, 219 motor-cycles were also burnt. Forty five property belonging to the police were also burnt.”
In Niger State, he said two persons were killed, four others were injured while eight churches, seven mosques, seven houses and seven vehicles were burnt, damaged or completely destroyed.
Throwing great light on the situation the police had to contend with during the polls, the IGP explained that: “The Police had to contend with a number of challenges ranging from inadequate logistic support and manpower among others. Some of these problems were created due to non-compliance with section 129 (2) occasioned by the agitation by some politicians who insisted and urged their supporters to stay back after casting their votes to “defend their votes” whatever that meant.”
The police boss also blamed the high level of illiteracy, unemployment and the culture of impunity for the violence. He said the late arrival of election materials, use of vehicle headlights to illuminate vote collation processes along with the activities of political thugs all created additional challenges for the police.
The IGP therefore urged INEC and political parties to step up voter education, in order to dispel some serious misconception associated with the electoral process. He also called for strict legislations, including at least six years’ imprisonment, for such crimes as the illegal possession of firearms.
The police report very much corroborates an earlier report by the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), a coalition of human rights organisations, based in Kaduna, which had reported over 500 persons killed. Also in mid-May, the US-based international organisation, Human Rights Watch, reported that over 800 were killed in the three days of rioting following the presidential elections.
President Goodluck Jonathan set up a 22-man “fact-finding” panel to investigate the violence. The Kaduna State governor, Mr Patrick Yakowa, also set up a judicial commission of inquiry on the violence.
Slain NYSC members: Bauchi State Gov Yuguda offers N2 million, scholarships and pilgrimage to families
On 29 May, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State announced an offer of N2 million, scholarships and flight tickets for going on pilgrimage, to the families of the 10 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) personnel killed during post-election violence in the state.
Speaking shortly after taking the oath of office for a second term at the IBB Square, Bauchi, Yuguda said his government was offering to the families of each of the deceased, the following:
- The sum of N2 million.
- Scholarships for two siblings from secondary to university levels of education within Nigeria.
- Three seats for going on pilgrimage to either Saudi Arabia or Jerusalem.
Making good the offer, Yuguda handed the NYSC director in the state cheques for the amounts, for conveyance to the families of the deceased on behalf of the state government.
The governor who described the killings of innocent citizens during and after the elections as barbaric and satanic, said security agencies had arrested over 600 persons, and that the suspected killers of the Corps members had already been arraigned in courts.
He also said he would have preferred a solemn inauguration at the Government House, in view of the recent incidents in the state, but that he still had to observe established traditions which include some public protocols and ceremonies.
It may be recalled that Yuguda had incurred the wrath of millions of youths and others across the country, when he disobligated himself from any responsibility for the security of Corps members in his state, as they had been engaged as ad-hoc staff for the elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In particular, his statement that whatever happened to the Corps members was their destiny, drew intense anger from several quarters and efforts to control the damage achieved little results. The governor’s recent offers therefore appear an effort both to compensate the bereaved families for their losses and to mollify some of the harshest critics.
On 25 May, the Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, inaugurated a 12-man judicial commission of inquiry to probe the violence that erupted in several parts of the state, following the 16 April presidential elections.
Headed by Justice Muhammadu Lawal Bello, the Commission has Mr. John Waje Bagu of the Ministry of Education as its secretary, while Barrister Mohammed Isa Aliyu from the Ministry of Justice, Kaduna, is to act as its counsel.
Other members are Alhaji Abubakar Ladan, Mr. Stephen Bawa Manya, Hajia Hadiza Mailafiya, Mr. Ali Barnabas Hadwya, Alhaji Rabiu Bako, Rev. Dr. Sam Kujiyat, Alhaji Ja’afaru Makarfi and Rev Dr. Bauta Motty.
At the inauguration, Yakowa outlined the commission’s terms of reference as follows:
- Inquire into or investigate, ascertain and identify the immediate and remote causes of the riots.
- Identify individuals, organizations and other associations that might have contributed to the build-up to the riot by way of publications in the print and electronic media, organizing seminars, workshops, conferences etc.
- To assess and determine the extent of loss of lives and property and other forms of damage caused during the riots and disturbances as well as identify the perpetrators of the dastardly acts.
- Examine any other matter or issue incidental to any of the terms of reference.
- Recommend appropriate legal actions to be taken against those responsible for the riots and or disturbances.
- Recommend appropriate steps to be taken by government to forestall future occurrence of the riots or disturbances.
The commission has eight weeks from the day of its first sitting to submit its report to the state governor.
The Commission is the third initiative towards probing the violence. It will be recalled that on 9 May, an Islamic umbrella organization, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), with the approval of the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of JNI, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, approved the constitution of a four-person committee to investigate the post-election crisis in Kaduna State.
Two days later, on 11 May, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a 22-member panel headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, to investigate the same crisis (as well as election-related violence in other northern states and in Akwa Ibom State). State agencies such as the Police and the State Security Service are also conducting their own regular investigations.
For now, what these multiple initiatives will achieve is not exactly clear. But as one observer remarked: “We may end up spending more money on the investigations, than the value of property that was destroyed in the crisis”.
On 24 May, the governorship candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) at the 26 April election in Benue State, Professor Steve Torkuma Ugbah, was granted bail, after he and 14 others had been arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Makurdi, capital of Benue State.
Prof Ugbah was arrested on 23 May and detained at the Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, while honouring a police invitation. He was said to have been detained for allegedly inciting disturbances in the state.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Olusola Amore, explained to some newsmen that Ugbah was believed to have incited the disturbance which led to attacks on some leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State.
One newspaper quoted the Police spokesman as saying: “He (Ugbah) was detained for inciting disturbance. There was robbery somewhere, he turned the story to be that the governor was the one sending people to go and attack people. As a result of that, they started attacking some PDP stalwarts. So he was the one who incited the disturbance”.
After a night in detention in Abuja, Ugbah was driven to Makurdi by the police and arraigned before a Chief Magistrate’s Court, along with 14 others, including his Security Adviser, Adaa Maagbe, and the former Chairman of Gboko Local Government Council, Chief Simon Abua. The men were charged with criminal conspiracy and rioting.
The prosecutor attempted to have Ugbah remanded in prison, arguing before the court that the offence was not bailable. Ugbah’s counsel, J.S. Orkuma, along with 20 other lawyers, countered that it was. Chief Magistrate Cecilia Bakare agreed with the defence and granted each of the accused N200,000 bail with a surety in like sum. The men were subsequently released.
In a statement issued after the court proceedings and signed by its Benue State Chairman, Comrade Abba Yaro, the ACN said it condemned “in strong terms” what it described as “attempts by the authorities to criminalize what is otherwise a matter that is nothing but strong political opposition to the misrule and misgovernance by (the Benue State governor) Gabriel Suswan”. The statement argued that: “If anything at all, those who should be facing charges in court are those who murdered Charles Ayede (Ugba’s media adviser who was shot dead on 13 May) and others in cold blood”.
The ACN said it was calling on the Police to “immediately drop these bogus, flimsy and phoney charges against our leaders and supporters” and instead “fish out the killers of Charles Ayede and charge them to court immediately”. It warned that: “Anything short of these will be stoking the embers of social unrest in Benue State, which end nobody can predict”.
On 24 May, Mr. Soibibo Horsfall, the local government chairmanship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Asari Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, who was kidnapped four days earlier, was rescued by the police.
Horsfall, who was seized by unknown gunmen in Emohua, Rivers State, a few hours to the local council election on 21 May, was found and rescued by the police in neighbouring Bayelsa State. Confirming the development, the Police Public Relations Officer for Rivers State, Mr. Ben Ugwuegbulam, said Horsfall regained his freedom through the efforts of police detectives.
A statement from the Police spokesman detailed as follows: “The ACN chairmanship candidate in Asari Toru Local Government Area, Hon. Soibibo Horsfall, abducted in the early hours of the local government council election day at Soma Bridge, was rescued at about 4.00am (Tuesday). He was rescued between Mbiama and Yenagoa by detectives of the Police Anti-kidnapping Unit and Police Swift Operation Squad”.
It will be recalled that, in the wake of Horsfall’s abduction, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Mr. Suleiman Abba, had said the incident was not strictly a kidnap case and that he was optimistic that Horsfall would soon regain his freedom. According to Abba, “My men have gotten in touch with him and I am sure, very soon, he will regain his freedom. So there is no cause for alarm. We are on top of the situation”.
On 23 May, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Kaduna State, said it had secured bail for over 600 persons arrested by the police, on suspicion of involvement in the violence that followed the 16 April presidential election.
Briefing newsmen in Kaduna, the CPC chairman for Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmadu Yaro, said his party’s action was based on compassionate grounds and that those it had freed were not only its members. He also said the party was still working to secure bail for more of the detained persons.
In spite of the high number of CPC supporters arrested during the crisis, Yaro maintained that members of his party were not responsible for the post-election violence. He claimed it was those members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who were still bitter over their losses at the primaries that master-minded the crisis.
He claimed: “It was PDP members who were fighting each other as a result of the fall-out of the primaries. It was a crisis within the PDP that caused the violence. Many of their members were not happy. That was why they started the crisis. It was not CPC”.
On 22 May, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) warned that the seeming unwillingness of President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene and stop the “serial killings” of its members in Benue State, could be leading to a greater crisis in the state.
In a statement issued in Lagos by the ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the President’s “failure” to stop the killings may be misinterpreted to mean that he acts only when the lives and property of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members are in jeopardy.
The statement warned that if the President continually failed to intervene in Benue State, individuals and groups affected by the recent killings might be forced to take the laws into their hands “and the country will have another conflagration to contend with”.
Addressing the President directly in the statement, the party said: ‘’You, President Goodluck Jonathan, are the President of Nigeria, not that of the PDP. The security and well-being of all Nigerians, whether they are in your party or in the opposition, are at the core of your presidential responsibility. It is therefore incumbent on you to take urgent measures today to stop the impunity that is taking hold in Benue, where several ACN members have been killed, starting from the run-up to the last general elections and to this moment”.
The ACN urged President Jonathan that if he needed any impetus to act, he should only call for and see the pictures of the body of Mr Charles Ayede, Senior Media Adviser to the party’s governorship candidate in Benue State (Professor Steve Torkuma Ugbah), who was killed by unknown gunmen on 13 May 2011.
It said: “The execution-style killing of an unarmed Nigerian in his own country, as depicted by the gory pictures of Ayede’s bullet-riddled body, is enough reason for any leader to say Enough is Enough”.
The party called on the President to demand from the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, an explanation on why most of the complaints which the ACN had lodged with the Benue State Police Command seem to have been ignored.
The PDP has been in power in Benue State since the return of democratic rule in 1999. The ACN put up a vigorous challenge in the most recent election (April 2011), but after a campaign that witnessed recurrent incidents of violence, the incumbent, Governor Gabriel Suswam, was declared winner. The ACN believes the election was rigged massively by the PDP and is petitioning the Election Tribunal in a bid to overturn that result.
Facts about the incident are still sketchy. Local sources say he was kidnapped at about 8 am, an hour before the accreditation of voters for the local government elections was billed to start. One account said he was forced out of his car by some yet-to-be-identified persons at Emuoha, on his way to Asari-Toru. Another said he was with three persons when he was seized. The gunmen are suspected to be loyalists of another political party.
The ACN’s chairman in Asari-Toru Local Government Area, Mr. Boma Abiyesuku, said he believed the kidnap was politically, motivated as the kidnappers had not called to demand any ransom.
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, told a newsman that he had dispatched two teams of detectives to the area. He also said the incident was not strictly a kidnap case and that he was optimistic that Horsfall would soon regain his freedom. According to Abba, “My men have gotten in touch with him and I am sure, very soon, he will regain his freedom. So there is no cause for alarm. We are on top of the situation”.
The kidnap of Horsfall comes amidst a fierce political contest between rival constituencies struggling for control of the local government. The incumbent chairman of the Council, Hon. Ojukaiye Flag Amachree, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is seeking a second term in office, but some residents say that under an existing arrangement in the area, he is not supposed to contest.
Former Petroleum Minister, Prof. Tam David-West, a native of Buguma, in a telephone interview with the widely-read Sunday Sun said under that arrangement, the position ought to go to the Horsfall family, and that it was wrong for the ruling PDP to support Amachree’s bid for a second term. He said: “The council chairmanship rotates from family to family in Buguma and, this time, it is the turn of Horsfall. Anyone supporting the present chairman to come back is looking for great trouble”.
Horsfall’s wife told a local radio station, late in the day, that her husband’s whereabouts remained unknown. She pleaded with the Rivers State government and security agencies to ensure his immediate release.
Local sources reported that the violence erupted in Rumumasi, in the densely populated central area of the city, as voters awaited results of elections that took place in most parts of the state. Some accounts say it was sparked by arguments between supporters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), as results of voting were still being expected. As shots rang out, cars were set ablaze and several roadside shops were destroyed. The chaos invited the attention of the police, which had to shoot in the air to disperse the fighters.
The Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Mr Suleiman Abba, confirmed the violence to an AFP reporter, but said “the shooting was by the police SOS team sent to quell the confusion”. It is not yet confirmed if anyone was killed or injured, but the police later restored order to the area. Local residents say the clash would have assumed wider dimensions but for the timely intervention of the police.
The elections took place in 21 of the 23 local government areas of Rivers State, the exceptions being Degema local government area and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni council. There was no election in Degema because the administration there came on board in November 2010, so its three year tenure is still running. In the case of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA, the council’s executive was dissolved and another election conduced in March 2010, so there will be no election in the area until 2013.
Abba had informed newsmen, on the eve of the elections, that the police was deploying about 20,000 officers, in collaboration with other security agencies, to provide security during the election. Reports say apart from the clash in Port Harcourt, the kidnap of an ACN candidate in Asari-Toru Local Government area and the arrest of some ACN officials at Obio/Akpor local government areas, the council election was peaceful in most areas of the state.