The Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, has hinted that the upper chamber of the National Assembly might come up with a bill that will prescribe punishments for perpetrators of violence during elections.
Abdullahi stated this on Tuesday while contributing to a motion moved by Senator George Sekibo, on the violence that rocked the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states on November 16.
He warned that any politician, irrespective of his or her political parties, could be a victim of violence during elections.
The Senate majority leader said this as the United Nations condemned the killings during the governorship election in Kogi State.
Also on Tuesday, the House of Representatives said it would investigate the violence during the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
No fewer than six people were killed during the governorship election in Kogi State. On November 18, a Peoples Democratic Party women leader, Salome Abuha, was burnt to death when thugs set her home at Ochadamu in the Ofu Local Area of the state on fire.
At the Senate plenary on Tuesday, Abdullahi said there was the need for the two main political parties in the Senate to work together and save the nation’s electoral process.
He said, “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.
“Let us see how we can raise a law to effectively tackle electoral violence because electoral violence knows no partisanship. All politicians on all sides are guilty.
“Electoral violence started from the beginning of our democratic journey in 1999, but it’s getting worse by the day. 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’s going to be dangerous for our country,” he added.
He admitted that the issue of electoral violence had been happening since the beginning of the present republic in 1999.
We can become victims of electoral violence, Senator warns colleagues
He said, “The spectre of violence and its attendant consequences are some of the unhealthiest events in the country. I believe that all politicians, irrespective of the various parties we belong to, have a responsibility to address and to curb violence, 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, who are known.”
The Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, lamented that the security agencies had not successfully prosecuted the perpetrators of electoral violence.
He said, “People have been known and seen to perpetuate violence and nothing has been done to them. Once nothing is done to somebody, once nobody pays the price for criminality of this nature, it only creates further violence.
“The law enforcement agencies must be up to task. The husband of the woman that was killed in Kogi State has identified those who killed his wife but till today, nothing has been done to them.
“We have heard all manner of excuses and there is now a pattern. If you don’t curb it through the use of enforcement, you will only see that pattern continue to grow.”
The senate consequently, condemned the spate of election-related violence in the country.
Senate observes a minute silence for victims
It observed a minute silence for all those who lost their lives in the violence during the governorship polls in Bayelsa and Kogi states.
The upper chamber also urged the National Orientation Agency and the Independent National Electoral Commission, to carry out a detailed campaign against electoral violence in subsequent elections.
The Senate also urged the security agencies to expeditiously apprehend perpetrators of electoral violence in all the areas where they occurred and bring them to book.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, stressed the need for the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of electoral violence in Bayelsa and Kogi states.
He said, “No party is free from this blame, and it is for us as 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 states, should be apprehended and prosecuted. I believe that this is the way to go; people should pay the price of their actions.”
Sekibo had in his lead debate, noted that armed thuggery has increased more in 2019 compared to previous elections.
He said privileged politicians used either armed thugs or security agents to disrupt smooth electioneering.
Sekibo noted that the effect of mayhem would reduce the credibility of electoral process and deepen hatred as well as widen the gap of our unity, if not checked.
He said, “The country’s electoral management body is not strong enough to withstand the pressure exerted by the political system. The electoral misconduct that accompanies it continue to threaten the deepening of democratization process.
“This negative effect of electoral violence in the country would continue to reduce the citizens’ confidence in the democratic process as well as heighten the fears of possible democratic collapse,” he added.
Reps probe Bayelsa, Kogi polls
On its part, the House of Representatives began an investigation into the violence recorded in the elections.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, however, stated that the report by the panel that would conduct the probe would not be considered if it blamed any political party.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, and a member, Solomon Bob, had at the plenary on Tuesday moved a motion titled “Need to Investigate the Security Breaches and Violence at the November 16, 2019, Elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.” The motion was unanimously adopted.
Moving the motion, Okechukwu stated that the polls witnessed widespread violence.
He said, “The House is aware of the reports released by civil society organisations that security officials were complicit in the violence and disruption that characterised the Kogi and Bayelsa elections. The House is also aware that Governor Seriake Dickson reported that soldiers were deployed in the Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.”
The lawmaker also made reference to the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, and the Situation Room which called for cancellation of the elections following the role of security agents.
Okechukwu further said, “The House is disturbed that in spite of such massive deployment of security personnel coupled with the intelligence reports, the elections witnessed such a degree of violence resulting in the death of one Mrs Salome Abuh. The House is concerned that the Police Service Commission also blamed insufficient manpower as reason for the widespread chaos during the elections. The House is mindful of the constitutional mandate of parliament and the need to forestall a recurrence.”
The lawmakers, therefore, prayed the House to “constitute a joint committee on Police Affairs, Army, Justice, Electoral Matters and Human Rights to investigate the pre and post-election security breaches in Kogi and Bayelsa.”
However, Gbajabiamila, before the motion was unanimously adopted through a voice vote, said he would amend the motion before it was passed. He warned the joint committee against naming or blaming any political party in its report.
UN condemns Kogi killings, commends investigation
The United Nations condemned the killings during the Kogi State governorship election. It also said it supported measures taken by the government to check hate speech, but not the death penalty.
The UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Mohammed, told State House correspondents in Abuja that the global body commended President Muhmmadu Buhari for condemning the loss of lives in Kogi State.
She also stated that the President took the appropriate step by calling for an investigation into the killings that took place in Kogi State.
Mohammed stated, “ (On) The recent loss of lives in politics of Kogi State, we commended Mr President for condemning the killings and asking for investigation.”
She said hate speech had become a major issue, which countries could introduce measures to check.
Mohammed, who was reacting to a question on the bill before the Nigerian Senate, which proposed death penalty for hate speech, noted that the UN would not subscribe to killing offenders as punishment.
She said it was a good development that the sponsor of the bill, later deleted the death penalty from the bill.
Mohammed said, “Measures and checks taken that will reduce hate speech are supported. However, we are not in support of the death penalty, and we are happy that the sponsor of the bill has taken that provision out of it”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed said she visited Nigeria to express the appreciation of the Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, to the Nigerian President.
It’s irresponsible to say FG blackmailed Jonathan – Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency said on Tuesday that it was “false and irresponsible’’ for anyone to give the impression that former President Goodluck Jonathan fell to blackmail by supporting the All Progressives Congress in the just-concluded governorship poll in Bayelsa State.
It noted that before the poll, the former President and the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson, already had a sour relationship. It added that this was enough a reason to make Jonathan support another party other than the PDP.
“It just doesn’t make any sense”, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, stated in an interview in Abuja.
Garba added, “Our media really must learn to verify whatever they publish. And people who make wild allegations during interviews should be made to produce the facts backing their claims by editors.
“A newspaper can be sued for granting space to people who belch false allegations against individuals with no proof.’’
He recalled that for five years, Jonathan had been out of power, adding that there was no time there was an allegation that he was blackmailed by the APC government to take any decisions.
“Anyone who has been following the politics of Bayelsa State should be aware of the sour relationship between Dr Jonathan and the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson.
“That is more than enough reason for the former President to decide to work against his party, if indeed he did.
“We really must stop this habit of blaming President Buhari for everything, including issues that are not his business”, a statement by the Deputy Director, information, Mr Abiodun Oladunjoye, quoted Shehu as saying.
A former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, had in an interview (not in The PUNCH), said Jonathan traded off the PDP for the APC during the governorship poll in Bayelsa because of his alleged link with $1.6bn Malabu scandal, an allegation that the ex-President had denied.