Electoral violence: US, UK, blowing hot air – Bolaji Akinyemi *Multiple evidence to indict Nigeria at ICC  

Electoral violence: US, UK, blowing hot air – Bolaji Akinyemi *Multiple evidence to indict Nigeria at ICC  

Politicians and godfathers of electoral violence in Nigeria are so rich and powerful that they are virtually untouchables, while their footsoldiers are too low to apply for visas, was the argument with which Bolaji Akinyemi, former Minister of External Affairs, dismissed the threat of the Western nations on political violence in Nigeria.

It is reported that the United States and the United Kingdom is already compiling the names of the sponsors of the violence that characterised the 2023 general elections, especially that of the governorship and Houses of Assembly edition, where voters in many states were prevented from carrying out their civic duties by thugs, in some cases aided by officials of the state.

But, Akinyemi, a Professor of International Affairs and former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), who shared his views while appearing as a guest on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television, told his host that while the patrons of the violence, had so much money stacked in the bank vaults of the same country threatening to sanction them, which served as a sort of insurance to insulate them from their bad behaviours, those they use to carry out the mayhem in the streets, would never apply for visas.

“Those who send these people to carry out the attacks and violence are so rich with so much money in these countries that they are untouchables. On the other hand, those who carry the guns, who carry the cutlasses, who carry the big sticks that we all saw on television don’t apply for visas in any case. They don’t go anywhere, they’re not interested in going anywhere. And that is why I just think this is all noise. It is not going to lead anywhere.”

Akinyemi, who was a member of the Justice Muhammed Uwais Electoral Reform Panel, set up by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, recalled how the body not only recommended the setting up of an Electoral Offences Commission (EOC) and Electoral Offences Tribunal (EOT), to deal with offenders, regretting that nothing came out of the move after the death of the former President, in 2010.

“Nothing every happened to those recommendations, because Yar’Adua died. Yar’Adua promised us, both at the beginning and when he was receiving our report that he would impliment that report without any amendment. But he was already ill as at the time he was receiving our report. Soon after, he died and President Goodluck Jonathan, did not have the heart to take on that report. Therefore, we have never tried electoral offenders and we have never punished them.”

The erudite scholar, however said that even without the Uwais failed intervention, Nigeria still had enough laws to tackle the development, even if not so strident or far-reaching enough, adding: “There are laws in our criminal code against hooliganism, against conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace and against assault.

“Do you want to tell me that unless it is election time, you can break somebody’s head and you’ll not be charged to court. Is that not assault? You don’t even an electoral tribunal to prosecute people who commit harm, grievous bodily harm. You don’t need that. So, why don’t we use it?”

Akinyemi, while expressing the hope that the police would bring those it claimed to have arrested during the period to trial as they promised, however warned that even if the Western nations never carried out their threats, there was the International Criminal Court (ICC), which had demonstrated its potency in handling such offences, especially in Africa.

Hear him: “The ICC, the International Criminal Court is there that deal with offences that border on hate-crime, sponsoring agitations against groups, not just against individuals. It has already been used in Cote D’Ivoire, and it has been used in Kenya. So, we should be careful of that – that even if we don’t prosecute these people and even if the United States and Great Britain don’t activate their visa sanctions, the ICC is there and there is sufficient evidence on paper and on video that can activate their own interest.”

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