NIGERIA – Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether the persistent crimes of corruption, violence, and killings during elections in Nigeria, most recently in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and the repeated failure of the Nigerian authorities to address the crimes amount to violence against Nigerians and crimes against humanity.
The petition dated 16 November, 2019 was sent to Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, ICC.
The organization urged Ms Bensouda: “to push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, officials of the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and other actors who contributed to the corruption, violence and killings during the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”
In the petition signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The events in the Bayelsa and Kogi elections suggest criminal conduct within the jurisdiction of the ICC.
“The incidents of bribery and corruption, intimidation and violence witnessed in Bayelsa and Kogi states also strike at the integrity of the democratic process and seriously undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s oft-expressed commitment to fight corruption and end impunity of perpetrators.
“The desire for power at all costs by politicians undermines Nigerians’ rights to open, transparent and accountable government that respects human rights and observe the rule of law. Election-related corruption and violence make public officials susceptible to corrupt incentives.
“The Nigerian authorities over the years have been unwilling and/or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of election-related corruption, violence and killings, which in turn has promoted the sense of impunity and emboldened those politicians and their accomplices who continue to commit these crimes against the Nigerian people during election periods.
“The violent events witnessed in the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states suggest the lack of political will by the authorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to respect the sanctity and integrity of the electoral system and to apply criminal sanctions to perpetrators of corruption, violence and killings during elections.
“The events in Bayelsa and Kogi states also suggest the misuse of state resources for party political purposes apparently by the APC and PDP. Corruption and violence-tainted elections invariably produce would-be corrupt public officials, and lead to a vicious circle of corruption, mistrust, impunity, and deny citizens access to public goods and services.
“The Nigerian authorities and the leadership of the two main parties failed abysmally to ensure an election free of bribery, violence and intimidation in Bayelsa and Kogi states. The ubiquity of corruption and violence in Nigeria’s electoral process has made it very difficult to stop politicians from engaging in grand corruption, thereby contributing to decades of poverty and underdevelopment across the country.
“The Bayelsa and Kogi elections have denied Nigerians the right to clean elections. The right to a clean elections system will improve the integrity of government institutions, encourage citizens’ participation in the political process, and will promote freedom to a corruption-free Nigeria.
“According to our information, the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states were characterised by widespread reports of vote-buying (ranging from N500 to N6,000), violent attacks on citizens and journalists, and outright stealing of ballot boxes by armed thugs hired by politicians apparently of the two major parties, the APC and PDP, suggesting grand corruption and brazen impunity.
“Nigeria has a long history of electoral violence, vote-buying, ballot-stuffing, and voter intimidation. Dozens of people were killed during the 2019 general election which returned President Muhammadu Buhari to power.”