A coalition of civil society groups has called for the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of violence during the 2015 election in the Niger Delta region, particularly, Bayelsa state.
The coalition also raised the alarm over what it described as the stock-pilling of weapons and the rising tension leading up to the 2019 election in the Niger Delta region and Bayelsa in particular.
It also called on the Bayelsa state government to commence the immediate implementation of the reports of the Justice Margaret Akpomiemie led commission of inquiry, which investigated the violence, mayhem and grave breach of the peace that occurred in the state before and during the state 2015/2016 governorship election.
The groups said this in a press conference in Lagos, jointly addressed by Comrade Bayo Obatughase Deputy National President Campaign for Democracy, Femi Lawson and Ologun Ayodeji of the Coalition Against Electoral Violence, and Barrister Isaac Atani of the Save Bayelsa/Save Niger Delta Group.
The coalition lamented that nearly three years after submission of a report on electoral violence to the relevant authorities, that none of them, including INEC, the Federal government, the Bayelsa State government and other relevant security agencies, as well as the International Community, have acted on the report, which, according to it, detailed the atrocities and extreme right violations, witnessed during the election.
The group claimed that the 2015 election witnessed “an unimaginable height of violence unleashed on the innocent people of the State, leading to the death of many, with valuable properties worth hundreds of millions, destroyed.”
The coalition said it took it upon itself, to embark on a post-election assessment of the situation “which eventually led to the production of a detailed report on the ELECTION VIOLENCE IN THE 2015/2016 BAYELSA GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION.”
The report, according to the statement,” captured audio and visual recordings and testimonies of the victims of the violence that marred the conduct of election in Southern Ijaw local government and some other parts of the State, during the election.”
“We witnessed a situation where harmless citizens were molested, attacked and harassed with a lot of complicity on the part of those, who ordinarily are supposed to protect them.
“As this crucial election gets closer, we have found it extremely imperative to inform Nigerians and the international community, about the likelihood of violence in some parts of the country, if the necessary checks are not undertaken by the Federal government and various authorities across our land.”
“This clarion call becomes inevitable at this point, as we have come to the realization, that elections should no longer be seen as wars and that whosoever engages in the destruction of properties and lives of our people, during the election period, is made to bear the consequences of his or her actions.”
It said it saw burnt-down houses, cars and other properties as well as palpable terror of victims, who are unable to return to their communities just for the fear of being attacked. The report captured testimonies of the victims and pictures of over 5 casualties including a baby that was killed during the period.
The coalition accused some notable politicians in Bayelsa State, of complicity.
It accused both the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva of trying to destabilise the peace in the state.
“In fact, about two days to the Bayelsa state governorship re-run election in Southern Ijaw, chiefs and people of Ekeremor community expressed serious concern over the open threats of violence to lives and property by their kinsmen.
“Chief Timipre Sylva during his tenure as governor of Bayelsa State between 2007 and 2012 set up the security outfit called Operation Famu-Tamgbe.”
“Right from the onset in the run-up to the 2015 elections, the APC primaries in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State was characterized by violence and bloodshed. Armed youths and cultist freely brandished automatic rifles, machetes and cudgels attacked supporters of the opponents in the intra party elections.
“Equally shocking was our findings that in Southern Ijaw Local Government, Peremabri community, thugs also sacked the community, brutalised the people and shot the traditional ruler, HRH Prsoper Never-Die, in the head.”
“These actors are once again preparing for a repeat and the only way to checkmate it, is by prosecuting the perpetrators of the previous action.
They, therefore, stressed the need for perpetrators of the heinous acts to account for the atrocities committed in the previous elections and stopped from unleashing further violence on the people of the state they added.
The Coalition called upon all patriotic Nigerians, leaders and members of the International community, to join hands with them as they commenced “a new phase to seek justice for victims of the senseless act of political desperation.”
They also called on the International Community, Embassies and foreign governments to place a visa ban on these purveyors of violence to serve as a further deterrence to those involved in electoral violence in the country.
The coalition demanded that the Bayelsa State government commence the immediate implementation of the reports of the Justice Margaret Akpomiemie led commission of inquiry, which investigated the violence, mayhem and grave breach of the peace that occurred in the state before and during the state 2015/2016 governorship election.
It said that “Our democracy will continue to be endangered, until we ensure that these desperate politicians are made to answer for their deed, and prosecuting the perpetrators of the unprecedented violence witnessed during the 2015/2016 Bayelsa governorship election, will send a strong warning and deter others from perpetrating such in future.”