Courts, not NHRC Indicted Electoral Offenders – Official
The National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday denied an allegation of indicting the persons named in its report on the human rights violation arising from electoral malpractices.
The commission, which was sued for naming a former senator representing Ekiti North Senatorial District, Ayo Arise, among the indicted persons, told Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja that the persons named in the report were indicted by various election petitions tribunals and appellate courts.
The NHRC opened and closed its defence in the Arise’s case, featuring its Deputy Director of Investigations, Mr Richmond Iheme, as its sole witness on Wednesday.
The commission’s report released on August 11, 2016, contained a total of 118 indictments with Arise named among other individuals, government institutions, security agencies and their personnel, allegedly involved in the malpractices that characterised the 2007 and 2011 general elections.
Led in evidence by the commission’s lawyer, Seun Quadri, Iheme adopted his witness statement in which he stated, “that the report was based on the truth” and that the commission “is justified in publishing the findings of the court to the nation at large in the performance of its statutory mandate”.
In specific reference to Arise’s case, the witness stated, “That I am aware that the publication was just a verbatim reproduction of the portion of the judgment of the Court of Appeal and the never painted the plaintiff in bad light before right-thinking members of the general public.”
He added, “That that the defendant (NHRC) neither added to, nor subtracted from the contents of the Court of Appeal judgment quoted above against the plaintiff and the defendant did not in any way indict the plaintiff.
“The indictment was by the Court of Appeal.”
In the part of the judgment quoted by the commission, the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, had its judgment in suit number CA/IL/SEN/27/2008 (Ayo Arise Vs Adetunbi), ordering a rerun of the 2007 Ekiti North Senatorial District election, stated that the “supposed umpires in the election” committed injustice “perhaps, in conjunction with the appellants, since they were ultimately declared the winners from the flawed process.”
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer, Peace Ugbonna, the witness was asked to read the portion of the Court of Appeal judgment.
Asked if the Court of Appeal used the words “criminal/administrative indictment” as used about her client in the report, Iheme said, “I just read, particularly in the last paragraph, which said the process was flawed and further said that it was perhaps done in conjunction with the appellant since they were the beneficiaries of the flawed process.”
Fielding further questions, he said the report was based on “actual and perceived statements of indictment”.
He maintained that that the NHRC “did not indict anybody,” adding that “What the NHRC did was to reproduce the court judgment verbatim.”
He also said he was “not aware if the plaintiff’s letter demanding an apology was replied by the commission.”
Iheme stressed that the report was a compilation of persons and institutions that were indicted by the election petition tribunals and appellate judicial bodies which sat on cases that arose from the 2007 and 2011 election cycles.
The NHRC, in the report, 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’, recommended some of the individuals to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, for further investigation and criminal prosecution.
Some others, including government institutions, political parties and lawyers, were recommended to relevant government agencies for administrative corrections and actions where necessary or professional sanctions for ethical misconducts.
But Arise and some of the individuals named in the report had written protest letters to the NHRC and subsequently instituted separate suits alleging that they were defamed by the report and prayed for an order expunging their names from it.
After the close of the defence’s case on Wednesday with only one witness, Justice Ekwo fixed April 22 for adoption of final written addresses by the parties.
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