Rights Commission indicts Uduaghan, Osunbor, others for electoral fraud

Delta state governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan signing documents

The National Human Rights Commission has indicted the outgoing governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, a former governor of Edo State, Oserheimen Osunbor, and the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Benue State, Terhemen Tazoor, for perpetrating electoral impunity.

Also indicted are the deputy governor of Sokoto State, Mukhtar Shehu Shagari, former Senators Adefemi Kila (Ekiti Central), Tanko Ayuba (Kebbi South), Ayo Arise (Ekiti North), Hosea Ehinlawo (Ondo North), former members of the House of Representatives, Temitayo Fawehinmi (Ondo), Tunde Isiaq (Lagos) and a former Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly and several others.

The former interim Deputy National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, James Ocholi, and a former National Secretary of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, Shettima Ali, were also listed.

They are among131 individuals, groups and institutions indicted in the Commission’s final report on the investigation of the election petitions filed at various election petition tribunals across the country’s six geo-political zones between 2007 and 2011.

The institutions include the Independent National Electoral Commission, its officials and offices in several states and the Governorship, National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal in some states.

Political parties indicted for the same offence include the PDP, the defunct ANPP and ACN.

The Commission had in its 146-page interim report released last year similarly indicted the Nigerian Judiciary, the Nigerian Police Force, and INEC for perpetrating impunity in Nigeria’s electoral process.

The report is titled, “An Independent Review of Evidence of Gross Violations of the Rights to Participate in Government to Public Service and to fair trial through the Election Petition Process in Nigeria — 2007 and 2011.”

It was prepared by a seven-member expert Technical Working Group, TWG, constituted by the NHRC and chaired by Nsongurua Udombana, a professor. The other members are Mohammed Akanbi, Oluyemisi Bamgbose, Ifeoma Enemo, Muhammed Ladan and Solomon Ukhuegbe.

In its latest 284-page report, the Commission noted that electoral impunity committed by those indicted manifested in two ways, namely in the theft of the mandate of the people to elect their leaders; and secondly in the inability of the legal process and institutions to ensure effective accountability for such theft.

It said many of the cases revealed corrupt practices before and during elections, including false declaration of age and/or forged certificates by candidates, use of thugs and security agents to disrupt elections and facilitate rigging and manipulation of election results.

It stated, for instance, that during the 2007 election, Mr. Isiaq, a candidate for Ibeju-Lekki Federal Constituency in the South West was indicted by the election tribunal because he falsified his school certificate in order to meet the constitutional requirements for office, but he was not prosecuted.

The report also said in Kogi, Mr. Olafemi was unseated from the legislature because the petitioners proved beyond reasonable doubt that he led his agents and thugs to commit acts of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

On his part, the report said the Ondo Governorship/Legislative House Election Tribunal found that thugs disrupted the elections during the House of Representatives election in which Mr. Fawehinmi was a candidate.

The Commission cited the case No. CA/B/EPT/38/10 filed by the governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party in Delta State in 2007, Great Ogboru against Mr. Uduaghan of the PDP in which the governor lost.

It quoted the Court of Appeal as saying in its judgement that “the implication of the absence of these constitutive acts that define an election is that the votes which the third respondent returned for the first respondent (Uduaghan) on April 14, 2007 were not obtained through due electoral process….

“The consequence is that since 2007, the aforesaid respondent has been sojourning under the roof of a veritable house of cards, worse still, a house of cards erected on the slippery quicksand of electoral jiggery pockery!

“In the circumstance, we have no choice than to enter an Order dismantling his over three and half years’ illegal occupancy of the very symbol of the peoples’ mandate…”

The Commission described the action of the governor and that of the Delta Governorship/Legislative Houses Election Petition Tribunal, Asaba, as “administrative/judicial misconduct.”

Mr. Osunbor, was indicted alongside INEC, its Resident Electoral Commissioner in Edo and the police in an appeal filed by Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN, who was eventually declared winner of the election by the court.

The Commission quoted the court as saying among other things that “the quandary here is should the proposition including where the evidence of the witness is that police officers were in fact doing the shooting, the thumb-printing or the ballot stuffing.”

The Commission described the nature of offence committed by the former governor, his party the PDP, REC and the police as “criminal and administrative.”

Mr. Terheimen, who emerged governorship candidate, last December was the first Respondent in the petition on the election into the Makurdi North State Constituency in the Benue State House of Assembly.

His party, PDP and INEC were the 2nd and INEC 3rd Respondents.

The Commission quoted the Court of Appeal while delivering the judgement as saying: “The law is that oral evidence is inadmissible to vary, add or to take away from content of a document…The 1st Respondent cannot therefore by oral evidence add to the content of exhibit P.1 or explain it. The failure of the 1st Respondent to tender certified true copy of Form EC8A (i) with three pages is fatal to his claim that he scored votes against the 1st Petition’s 8 votes in Tse-Tsav polling station.

“By Section 151 (1) of the Electoral Act, all parties to an election petition have access to documents in the custody of the 3rd Respondent. In this case we hold and construe the refusal or failure of the Respondent to tender either the original copy or certified true copy of Form EC8A (i) with the three pages as a deliberate concealment of facts and we invoke the provisions of Section 149 (d) of the Evidence Act against the respondents….”

It also said, “The petitioners have made allegations of arbitrary allocation of votes to the parties/candidates in exhibit P.6 in respect of Tse-tsav polling unit. The only way this can be countered is for the Respondents in this case to tender the various result sheets.

“From all we have stated above, we hold and find that votes were arbitrary allocated to the parties/candidates in serial No. 13 in Exhibit P.6. The submissions of Leaned Counsel for the Respondent that the 1st Respondent was not found or proved to have been responsible is of no moment. The scores/votes allocated to both the petitioners and the 1st and 2nd Respondents by the 3rd Respondent in Exhibit P.6 are unlawful, and we so hold.”

The Commission indicted INEC offices in Plateau, Nasarawa, Kwara, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Edo, Rivers, Kogi, Adamawa, Kano, Delta, Ektiti States for either being involved in criminal or administrative offences.

It also indicted the defunct Governor, National/State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunals in some states, including Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Osun, Anambra, and Kwara for judicial misconducts.

The Commission however explained the report is not a verdict on the guilt or otherwise of persons so indicted; rather, it is information distilled from judicial records aimed at drawing the attention of relevant prosecutorial and other agencies to act.

It stressed, “Persons indicted in the report are presumed innocent until relevant authorities have “commenced further investigations to establish a prima facie case for prosecution or other disciplinary measures.”

It stated that the task of consolidating electoral democracy in Nigeria would require giving urgent attention to the elimination of electoral impunity through ensuring accountability for electoral crimes.

The Commission also made recommendations to all relevant institutions in the electoral process.

It, however, stressed that, “No number of recommendations can replace the need for political will on the part of all concerned branches and agencies of the Nigerian State, as well as the INEC, political leaders, political parties and civic organisations.”

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