By Chukwudi Nweje / Acting Features Editor
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PDPPCO) has said that the Federal Government has concluded arrangements and may soon drag General Muhammadu Buhari, Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the 2011 Electoral violence in the country to face alleged charges of human rights abuses and criminality.
Femi Fani-Kayode PDPPCO spokesman said the government would first demystify Buhari by defeating him at the polls before dragging him to the ICC against the backdrop that it will be risky to arrest him now over the 2011 violence as it would raise dust. “After his rejection at the poll, General Buhari may have to prepare to face charges of human rights abuses and criminality filed against him before the International Criminal Court on account of the 2011 electoral violence in Nigeria,” he said.
The African Herald Express had earlier reported on its February 20, 2015 edition that Dutch lawyers– Prakken d’Oliveira, a Human Rights Law Firm based in Amsterdam has filed a criminal complaint against Buhari at the ICC. The firm is said to be acting on behalf of the Nigerian Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice and two individual victims. It will be recalled that several hundreds of lives had been lost and property worth several millions of naira destroyed following violence that greeted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan winner of the presidential election of 2011. Many have attributed the violence to Buhari’s alleged statement to make the country ungovernable.
In fact, some argue that that post election violence was a pogrom specifically targeted at specific category of Nigerians. Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which entered into force on 1 July 2002 gives the ICC jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. These include the crime of genocide; crimes against humanity; war crimes; the crime of aggression among others. Specifically, Article 6 of the statute defined ‘genocide’ to mean “any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Under law, the passage of time does not in any way invalidate an alleged crime and some argue that the ICC probe would bring justice to the victims of the post 2011 election violence. Nonetheless, the question remains why now? Why is the PDPPCO making the threat and why did the Federal Government have to wait four years before moving to action? Some analysts believe that the threat is meant to cow the opposition.
Joe Igbokwe, Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State Chapter of APC described the threat as blackmail. He said: “Buhari in 2015 is just too big for anybody to toy with. He has become a firebrand, an avatar, a colossus and the rock of Gibraltar. Buhari is now a massive movement that cannot be stopped. Probe him if you can but I know they do not have the courage to do so.”
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), however sees nothing wrong in the probe but the timing makes it suspicious; adding that it could be used as an electioneering tool to witch hunt the opponent.
Debo Adeniran, the executive chairman queried: “2011 till now is about four years and so why should a government wait for four years if it is doing what it has to do with good intention. If it is an efficient government, must they just be looking while such heinous crime was committed and if it has enough proof to have suspected the APC Presidential Candidate, why haven’t they got him arrested and gone to court immediately the crime was committed, why waiting till now?”
He added: “One thing we do not believe is that, the probe at this time would be free and fair. All indications during the campaign have indicated that the regime is looking for every means of nailing Gen Muhammadu Buhari. It is evident in their Adverts, it is evident in their documentary and this shows that they want to carry out a hostile investigation and there is nothing to show us that all the evidences would not be contrived and witnesses tutored to give evidence against their victim.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba has faulted the PDPPCO as he described Fani- Kayode’s statement as witty. He wondered how the PDPPCO spokesman can prosecute Buhari when he is not the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“I don’t think Fani- Kayode can say so because he doesn’t have any political power. He is not the Attorney-General of the federation. We are tired of mudslinging. We are not babies. Let us face issues. We are interested in what President Jonathan or Buhari will do if elected, not these bitter campaigns of calumny against one another” he concluded.