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A Journey into Turbulence

The birth of a committee to probe recent acts of violence in parts of the country before and during the recent elections ignites a wave of protests

President Goodluck Jona-than is determined to prevent future occurrence of the orgy of post -election violence that engulfed some parts of Northern Nigeria, after the April 16 presidential poll. As part of the measures to achieve that, the president, on May 11, inaugurated a 22-member committee in Abuja to investigate the incident.

But the composition of the committee has continued to elicit criticisms from Nigerians.  The   Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the 19 Northern states, kicked against the appointment of Sheikh Ahmed Lemu as the chairman of the committee. Peter Jatau, an archbishop and the chairman of CAN in the 19 northern states, said in Kaduna that Christians in the northern part of the country were doubtful of the neutrality of Lemu as chairman of the committee to investigate the violence in some parts of the north.

Saidu Dogo, secretary of CAN, appealed to the federal government to consider reconstituting the panel with a neutral and unbiased chairman. Both clergymen accused Lemu as the person behind the introduction of Sharia legal system in Niger State, when he was the Grand Khadi of Niger State. The introduction of the sharia legal system brought untold hardship to Christians residing in the northern parts of the country.

Muhammadu Buhari, former head of state and presidential candidate of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the 2011 presidential elections also picked holes in the setting up of the committee.

According to   Buhari, the   setting up of the committee was illegal and a wild goose chase which would not achieve the desired result. He said that the federal government, by law, has no power to investigate any disturbances outside the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja. He argued that Samson Uwaifo, who was appointed deputy chairman of the committee, was in the Supreme Court when the judgement was delivered in 2003, which said the federal government did not have the power to investigate such an incident. Buhari described the setting up of the committee as a hollow ritual meant to play politics with serious national tragedy. He claimed that some of the terms of reference of the panel are criminal issues that cannot be handled by the committee.  

Similarly, Femi Falana, former president of West African Bar Association, WABA, and human rights lawyer, said that the legal competence of the committee is questionable and should be dissolved immediately because it lacks power to probe the violence. Falana based his argument on the case between the late Gani Fawehinmi and Ibrahim Babangida, former military president in 2003. In the case, the Supreme Court set aside the summons issued and served on General Babaginda and two ex- security chiefs by the Oputa panel of inquiry on the ground that the tribunal of Inquiry Act could not operate outside the Federal Capital Territory.

Joseph Daudu, president, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, believes that the assignment before the committee is very crucial for any one to bring legal interpretation to its composition. “It was imperative to find a means to prevent a recurrence of a callous display of   barbarism and savagery inflicted on fellow human beings and supposedly fellow Nigerians by people who do not place premium on human lives. I think that the committee has a very serious task ahead of them.” he said.

The Nigerian chapter of Universal Peace Foundation, UPF, an affiliate of the United Nations, UN, has commended President Jonathan for setting up the Lemu investigative committee on post- election violence in the country. Mohammed Buhari, chairman of the National Working Committee of NWC, of the body, said members would participate fully in the activities of the committee.    

The committee which has six weeks to submit its report was tasked to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom State and the unrest in some states in the North following the release of the results of the presidential election. They were also to ascertain the number of persons who died or were injured during the violence, identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood. It was also to assess the cost of damage to personal and public properties and places of worship, investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend how to stem the tide of illegal flow of such weapons to the country.

The committee is also to examine any other matters incidental or relevant to the unrest and advise government as appropriate.  Lemu described as saddening, the unrest which led to the death of 10 youth corps members. He promised that his committee would  put measures in place to prevent interference from the committee.

The 22-member committee has Samson Uwaifo as vice chairman while F F Ogunshakin is to serve as secretary. Other members of the committee are Lateefat Okunnu, former deputy governor of Lagos State, Ajibola Ogunshola, immediate past chairman of Punch Newspapers, Idowu Feron, a Catholic priest, Muhammadu Dan Madami, M B Wali.

Also in the committee are Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, Peter Esele, president, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Muhammed Ibrahim,  Femi Odekunle, Ralph  Uwechue, president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Bukar Usman. The list also include Adam Idoko, Muhammed Said, P.C. Okorie, Shamsuna Ahmed, L.P. Ngubane, Sani Maikudi, I. Hotonu and  a serving member of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. 

 

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