Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana SAN has stated that the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, risks being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, over his “body bag” comment, adding that the only thing that could save El-Rufai from being picked up and prosecuted by the ICC was for none of the foreign election observers in Nigeria to be killed.
Speaking while delivering at a public lecture organised by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in honour of the late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, he stated that the actions of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, has confirmed that the general election will be a ‘do-or -die affair’.
The human rights lawyer, however, challenged the United States and the United Kingdom, which had threatened visa ban against any politician who makes inciting comments, to begin with El-Rufai.
According to him, “Last week, Mr Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, threatened that foreign election observers and monitors who interfere in the 2019 general elections would ‘return to their countries in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country’.
“It is indisputable that the threat to attack and kill foreign election observers in Nigeria constitutes an infraction of the Electoral Act, 2010 and the Penal Code. But because the governor, El-Rufai, currently enjoys immunity his trial and prosecution for the offence will have to await the end of his tenure.
“The western countries that have threatened to place travel restrictions on members of the ruling class who incite violence or interfere in the electoral process should not hesitate to make an example of the governor without any further delay.
“The Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who has also warned against any form of electoral violence in the country, is urged to hold Governor El-Rufai responsible if foreign observers and monitors are killed during the 2019 general elections.”
He added that, “notwithstanding the recklessness of the threat to attack foreign election observers, Governor el-Rufai’s has confirmed that the 2019 general election is going to be a do-or-die affair – apologies to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for the leading factions of the ruling class.
“Since leading politicians have recruited and armed thugs, the general election will be characterised by violence in many parts of the country. Even if some of the thugs are arrested and are arraigned in the courts, the various attorneys-general would file nolle prosequi to terminate the criminal cases as the managers of the neocolonial state cannot afford to prosecute their armed agents.
“Therefore, since the children of the sponsors of violence are in expensive schools at home and abroad, we urge the masses of our people not to allow their own children to be used as cannon fodders during the battle for the control of political power and economic resources of the country by the ruling class.”
The activist lawyer, however, accused the western nations of hypocrisy, noting that they kept mum when hundreds of Shi’ites were killed in the country, stressing that, “They did not speak out when Governor El-Rufai publicly justified the massacre of 347 Shi’ites by the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State on December 12, 2015.
“Did members of the international community protest when the governor authorised the mass burial of the bodies of the slain Shi’ites in an unmarked grave? Is the Special Prosecutor of the ICC not aware that the body bags of the massacred Shi’ites were not even sent to their bereaved family members?”
Falana said it was funny that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, would accuse the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of engaging lobbyists to meddle in Nigeria’s internal affairs, when the ruling party did the same in 2015.
He said, “It is interesting to note that the All Progressive Congress has accused western countries of supporting the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 general elections. Did former President Jonathan not accuse President (Barack) Obama of supporting the APC during the 2015 general elections? Have both the APC and the PDP not engaged the services of lobby groups to convince the governments of western countries to believe in their ability and competence to fix the problems of Nigeria? Have both political parties not sought the endorsement of the governments of western countries?
“Having regard to the commitment of both the APC and the PDP to guarantee unrestrained exploitation of the nation’s resources by imperialism it is naive to think that the governments of western countries are going to maintain neutrality in the politics of the country.”
Falana also accused the ruling APC and the PDP of considering manipulating results, wondering why ex-President Goodluck Jonathan failed to implement the recommendation of the Uwai panel set up by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to tackle electoral malpractice.
The senior advocate pointed out that like Jonathan, President Muhammadu Buhari also jettisoned the Ken Nnamani-led panel set up by the APC government.
“It is indubitably clear that both APC and PDP are resolutely committed to the status quo which permits the manipulation of election results,” he said.
“Hence, both parties have rejected the reform of the electoral system. But it is high time democratic forces mounted sufficient pressure on the political class to implement the recommendations of the electoral reform panels.”