A group, the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice, has called for the prosecution of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, at the International Criminal Court, ICC, The Hague for “orchestrating” the 2011 post-election violence in some parts of Northern of Nigeria.
The group, said to be a consortium of 17 non-governmental organisations, operating primarily in the Northern states of Nigeria, made the charge Thursday at a press briefing in Abuja at the Transcorps Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
In a statement read by its secretary for research and documentation, Ibrahim Baba, the group said it was compelled to “sustain the process for the prosecution of Mr. Buhari” which it claimed to have been instituted at the The Hague in May 2011, “for his role that orchestrated the 2011 post-election violence in some parts of the North.”
Claiming national interest “devoid of partisanship and political colouration”, the group said it was important that “those responsible for the premeditated arson, killings and destruction of properties” be brought to justice.
The group explained that recent provocative and inciting statements by politicians ahead of the 2015 general elections had influenced the renewed request for the ICC to urgently launch criminal investigations against Mr. Buhari in order to checkmate a reoccurrence of political violence.
While establishing grounds for its call for the prosecution of Buhari, it said: “Similarly, we recall that just before the 2011 general elections, the then presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari had categorically directed crowds in Hausa (language) at his campaign rallies in the north but particularly Minna, Kaduna and Maiduguri to protect their votes at all cost including killing and elimination of others.
“Like a nightmare, the spirit of victims of 2011 post-election violence is resurrecting today at this venue to re-echo the calls for justice and immediate prosecution of those responsible for imposing tears, sorrow, blood and violence on Nigerians in 2011.
“Another reason for institution of the case is to compel the political class to imbibe the culture of winning election through the sanctity of the ballot box devoid of intimidation, threat, intolerance, hate messages, resorting to self-help and violence. We remained concerned about gut-wrenching situation of people being intimidated on account of exercising their political liberty, choices and preferences. In the North, now, they attack supporters of a particular party and candidate.”
In his address, Goran Sluiter, a Dutch professor of Law at ICC, who attended the briefing, said: “Based on available evidence, there are compelling reasons to believe that crimes against humanity – including murder, torture, rape, forcible population transfer, persecution, and other inhumane acts – were committed in the context of the politically-motivated sectarian violence that immediately followed Nigerian presidential elections of April 2011.”
Mr. Sluitter said given the seriousness of the crimes, “the prosecutor at the ICC will be asked to conduct investigations into the alleged acts and their perpetrators, in particular former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari.
“The evidence collected to date strongly suggests that the highly inflammatory public comments made by General Buhari – prior to, during and immediately following 2011 elections – led directly to the deaths of over 88 people and the displacement of more than 65,000 individuals in April 2011.”
He added that the northern group represented the aspirations of all Nigerians.
However the programme did not end without drama.
As Ibrahim Baba was ending the press address, some attendees and members of the coalition, who claimed to have been invited purportedly to campaign for peaceful elections, started jeering. They said they did not know the press conference was meant to discredit Mr. Buhari, accusing the conveners of promoting PDP agenda.
The dissident members were forcibly sent out of the conference room but they continued shouting, “This is unfair; we were not told to come for this!”
They were prevented from speaking with journalists but one of them, the most outspoken, said, while being pushed away, “Heh! Journalist, my name is Hassan from Borno State. They are deceiving us!”