Kogi, Bayelsa polls: Senate wants prosecution of perpetrators of violence

The Senate passed the resolution yesterday during its consideration and adoption of a motion of urgent public importance, entitled, “Curbing electoral violence in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers State).

This is as the House of Representatives, also yesterday, resolved to investigate alleged politically-motivated killings in the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections.

The apex legislative chamber also urged the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to carry out a detailed campaign against electoral violence in subsequent elections in the country.

It further condemned the spate of election-related violence in Nigeria, just as it observed a minute silence in honour of all those who lost their lives during the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship and senatorial elections.

While presenting the motion, Sekibo noted that that election is an integral part of democratic process that enables the citizenry to determine fairly and freely, who should lead them periodically at every level of government.

He regretted that it had been established that Nigerian elections are always stained with electoral violence that predated this democratic dispensation, which commenced in 1999.

The lawmaker observed that in 2011, post-election violence that took place for three days claimed 800 lives and property worth billions of naira were destroyed.

Contributing to debate on the motion, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, expressed concern that the security agencies had not practically arrested those who perpetrated violence in the Bayelsa and Kogi elections, with a view to prosecuting them.

He also noted with concern that the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies were busy dishing out lies and propaganda on the arrest of the killers of the PDP Woman Leader in Kogi State, warning that if nothing was done to the killers, it would encourage others to replicate the act in future.

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He said: “Few days ago, elections held and we had also had to go and condemn, especially the post elections violence that even led to the burning alive of PDP woman leader in Kogi State, which has led to wide spread condemnation everywhere.

Similarly, the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, while contributing, urged for enactment of a law that would effectively help curb electoral violence in the country, tasking politicians to disregard party affiliation and jointly find solution to the problem.

His words: “The issue of electoral violence has been with us for a long time since the emergence of this Republic in 1999. The specter of violence and its attendant consequences is one of the unhealthiest events in the country, and for which I believe that all of us politicians irrespective of the various parties we belong to, have a responsibility to address and to curb, otherwise we will all become victims.

“So, there is the need for us to urge the security agencies to really do their jobs. They should arrest and bring to book the perpetrators of the dastardly act.

“It is important if the minority leader and I can come up with a by-partisan bill to look at the punishments for electoral violence and see how we can raise a law to effectively tackle electoral violence because it knows no partisanship. All politicians on all sides are guilty.

“This violence started from the beginning of our democratic journey, but it is getting worse by the day. Of course there were pockets of violence in other republics, but they were not as terrible as what we have today. If we don’t curb this phenomenon, it is going to be dangerous for our country.”

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In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, described the motion as timely and very important, saying that no party is free from the blame over electoral violence.

He charged all politicians to turn a new leaf and join in the campaign to enlighten the electorate to come to the understanding that politics is a game of ideas.

Lawan also insisted that the security agencies should arrest and bring to justice, all those that caused mayhem in the last polls in Bayelsa and Kogi, arguing that people must pay the price of their actions.

“The minority leader and the Senate leader spoke the minds of all of us here. No party is free from this blame, and it is for us politicians to continue to enlighten our people to face politics as a game of ideas.

“I believe that those who perpetrated violence, especially in the last elections in Bayelsa and Kogi should be apprehended and prosecuted. I believe that this is the way to go; people should pay the price of their actions,” he said.

The House of Representatives resolution to investigate alleged politically-motivated killings during the elections was taken following the adoption of a motion sponsored by its Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu).

Presenting the motion, Okechukwu sought to have the violence that claimed several lives, including that of a PDP woman leader and members of her family looked into.

He explained that the motion is aimed at bringing culprits behind violence during elections to justice.

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The deputy minority leader maintained that the last Kogi elections beat previous records in violence, a claim that was forcefully contested by other lawmakers.

Contributing to the motion, Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Tahir Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno), however, said except for the part doubting the outcome of the polls, the motion deserved the approval of the House.

He said in order to put an end to election violence; government should establish an electoral offences tribunal to try perpetrators of violence and their sponsors.

Hon. Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau), in his contribution, condemned what he termed the partisan nature of the motion, arguing that making comparison with elections of 1993 and 1999 and tending to lay blame on a particular political party was not fair.

In his support of the motion, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) defended the sponsor of the motion, arguing that there was nothing partisan about the motion. He said as representatives of the people, legislators should be genuinely concerned, when the blood of innocent Nigerians is spilled.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who presided over the plenary sought for decorum, citing Order 9 Rule 5 of the standing rules of the House.

Order 9 Rule 5, cautions the parliament against discussing matters before the court, but Okechukwu insisted that the matter in question has not been brought before any court.

The motion was eventually passed and was referred to the Committee on Police Affairs with the speaker warning the committee not to make reference to any party involved in the last Kogi State governorship poll and senatorial rerun elections.

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