John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Investigations Into Voting and Violence

by John Campbell
May 18, 2011

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Attahiru Jega (R) collates electoral figures with a top official of the commission before the announcement of the presidential election results at the INEC headquarters in the capital Abuja, April 18, 2011. (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters)

It the aftermath of the presidential election in Nigeria, its federal authorities have initiated formal inquiries relating to charges of voting irregularities and, separately, the causes of election-related violence. If Nigerians see the inquiries as credible, it will be a crucial step forward.

The President Electoral Petition Tribunal, headed by Justice Ayo Salami, held its first formal meeting yesterday, and it will begin official hearings on May 23. The five member Tribunal will consider a petition from the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), an opposition party that contests President Goodluck Jonathan’s April 16 victory in at least 20 states. The CPC seeks a new round of elections.

A separate panel comprised of 22 Nigerians will analyze the election-related violence. A highly regarded former Grand Khadi from Niger State, Ahmed Lemu, will lead the group. The stated goals of the six-week ‘Lemu Panel’ are to determine the actual death toll from the violence (Human Rights Watch estimates 800 people were killed), calculate the total cost of the damage to private property as well as Christian and Muslim places of worship, and identify the root causes of the unrest.

Since 1999, over 15,000 people have been killed in religious, ethnic, and political violence in Nigeria—yet few have been arrested, indicted and convicted, thereby contributing to a general climate of impunity. The ‘Lemu Panel’ provides a new opportunity to address the violence and its perpetrators.

It likely will be months before the Tribunal and the ‘Lemu Panel’ issue their reports.

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  • Posted by Muhammad NaIya

    While it is most unfortunate and sad that so many people lost their lives in the post-election violence. it seems the issue has been hijacked. I say this with all sense of responsibility because it seems the whole issue has been turned into a “North/South, Mob/NYSC” isue.
    The riots whatever its remote causes were initially directed at “percieved” election riggers in specific Northern States. Thsi came against a background of brazen use of money to influence the voters across amy states in the North. This is a notorious fact because there was an air of impunity about how the whole “sharing” was carried out. The “distributors” were protected by armed Plicemen and the whole excercise was done openly.
    With this basckground and the rumoures that some states executives have “bribed” the NYSC electoral officers amounts were mentioned by texts and sms messsages-, and the fact of the “mistakes” in the excel programme of the Collation comoputers, -”A Trojan in the Computer”- the authorities showed very little appreciation of the true state of things or an incredible lack of foresight and a rather contemptous disregard of the feelings of the Public.
    Clearly the initial outrage was very specific but how the situation escalated and became a regional/religious issue is a task the Lemu led Commission must carefully investigate for the truth to emerge as to the remote vauses of the whole incident. The reprisals that followed in some states clearly point to a certain level of premedidated violence and the response of the law enforcement was to say the least, ineffectual under the circumstances.
    One can only hop that teh lemu Commission will not be a witch-hunt nor yet another unacted upon report. It (the report) CAN FORM THE BASIS OF MAENDING OUR ELECTORAL LWAS AND EVEN LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS of a truely democratic Society that is still sorely misssing.

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