The Nigerian Bar Association has throughout the process leading to this election been an authentic partner with all stakeholders INEC, local and foreign civil societies, Government and well-meaning individuals in the quest for a credible election- a concept that has eluded Nigeria for such a long time. In the build up to this general election, the NBA collaborated with NDI, Justice Development and Peace Commission/CARITAS, FOMWAN and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
The Coalition which functioned as the Operation Swift Count blanketed the whole nation with observers/monitors and covered every aspect of the election commencing with the Registration exercise. It is also to be noted that apart from this coalition, many of our 88 branches nationwide set up their own independent election monitoring groups. The aim of all this coverage was to put us in a position at any stage of the exercise to assess the integrity or otherwise of the electoral process. We are glad to note that all participants in the election monitoring process, Swift Count et al performed impressively and in a patriotic manner. It is based on their report and other parameters that we now issue this statement.
• INEC must be congratulated for conducting a transparently credible election so far. INEC cannot be held responsible for the poor democratic culture displayed by some of the losers. It is on record that this is the first general election where alarming reports of disenfranchisement in the way of subserviced polling stations, inability of registered voters to vote, violence at polling stations and the hijacking of ballot boxes were recorded at the barest minimum. There is a consensus among all observers, local and international and men of repute that covered the election so far that the whole process was free and fair. The NBA has therefore been proved right when we refused to join others in castigating INEC during the botched day1 election. We anticipated logistical challenges and knew that ability and capacity to be resilient will be the determinant factor in INEC’s success or failure. INEC in the subsequent election has demonstrated both.
• NBA at this stage congratulates all those that won in the 2 elections President Goodluck Jonathan inclusive. Even though the process or steps leading to the election were marred by factors such as (a) poor or totally non-existent internal democracy mechanism for political parties, (b) apparent lack of philosophy and or ideology in the campaign manifesto or statement of all the political parties, (iii) reliance on poster politics and inability to communicate with the electorate, (iv) pre-election violence and (v) excessive monetisation of political campaigns, notwithstanding the foregoing the integrity of the actual election cannot be faulted. The pre-election glitches referred to above must constantly be addressed and eliminated for us to become properly admitted into the comity of democratic nations.
• However, it is with great disappointment and sadness that the NBA notes the tragic aftermath of the Presidential election, particularly after the rightful winner was declared by INEC as duly elected. In the past 3 days hundreds of innocent Nigerians, who are not of northern extraction or are from the north and are Christians have been brutally and savagely killed, churches in Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Yobe etc have been torched/burnt down, shops and other businesses of Nigerians referred to as strangers in their own country have been looted. The highways are no longer passable as Christians and other identifiable non indigenes are pulled out of vehicles and slaughtered. Etc. The implication is legion and we shall deal with them here below.
• Federal Government of Nigeria must vigorously address the security issue. The approach to the present crisis is deplorable. It questions the unity of this country and calls for urgent mechanisms to address that concept. There is no point in living in any part of the world where your ‘hosts’ turn against you killing and maiming their ‘guests’ if they can be so referred to. It is necessary to advise that this episode must not be swept under the carpet and the cold blooded murderers must be brought to book and justice served to the memory of all that untimely lost their lives in this crisis. If however FGN refuses or omits to bring the culprits to justice we shall be left with no option that to approach the International Criminal Court of Justice for warrants to issue against the leaders of organisations that gave platform for these crimes that include mass murder and genocide. Government must also act in the interest of maintaining the unity of this country. Unless we have so soon forgotten the lessons of history, the 1967-1970 civil war started on a similar note of loss of lives. If not curbed by bringing persons who partook in such crimes to book, then what we may be up against will be terrifying. What however is not known is where the theatre of redress will be located.
• Consequently, Government is enjoined to bring all those involved in this carnage to book. It is also necessary to constitute a high powered commission of inquiry so as to collate the extent of loss of lives and property and every opportunity given to aggrieved or affected persons to speak out, Thirdly, such commission should be empowered to pay compensation for lives and property lost and same be deducted from the accounts of States where the losses or deaths occurred. Fourthly, the National Assembly should consider enacting stiffer laws to protect the lives, liberty and property of every Nigerian regardless of where he resides in this country. Fifthly and most importantly is that the Governorship elections in the affected States must be postponed until at least law and order are fully restored. Part of the objective of the masterminds of this purge is to intimidate non indigenes for the last election as well as punish them for daring to vote according to their choice and conscience. It will be a travesty of the electoral process if the remaining election is conducted under this very ominous cloud in the affected States.
• Finally, the NBA thanks Nigerians in States not affected for resisting the temptation to take reprisal action. An eye for an eye will make the whole country blind. This is a major test for the Jonathan Administration, which will succeed itself shortly and it should not think lightly of the assignment ahead. The Party is over. Nigerians expect security, the industrialisation of the nation, the provision of basic amenities such as power, education, health, transportation and a peaceful environment for the conduct of business. The in-coming government must deliver.
JOSEPH BODUNRIN DAUDU SAN
20TH APRIL 2011