Sunday, 20 April 2014
Electoral Violence And Slain 10 NYSC Members: Partial Compensation Without Prosecution Is Not Justice
Abuja, Nigeria: Monday 1 July 2013 - The Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, has responded to the FOIA request made by a group of Youth organizations to release the report on the state of payment of compensation to the families of the deceased youth corps members who were slain in Bauchi state during 2011 elections and the status of the prosecution of those arrested in relation to their gruesome murder. A similar request was also made to the National Youth Service Corps and the Independent National Electoral Commission but neither of the two offices has responded to the request.
On April 23, 2013, a group of youth organizations: Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Centre for Public Policy & Research (CPPR), Cybercrimes Awareness & Fiscal Accountability Foundation (CAFA), Human Rights Volunteer Initiative (HURVI) and Youth Hub Africa, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (2011), made a request to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) demanding the release of the report of the state of payment of compensation to the families of the deceased youth corps members who were slain in Bauchi state during 2011 elections and the status of the prosecution of those arrested in relation to their gruesome murder.
In his response, the SGF provided a report with detailed information on the state of the payment of compensation. The report states that on May 10, 2011, the following compensation was paid to each of the families of the ten slain corps members during the 2011 post-election violence in Bauchi State:
1. The sum of Five Million Naira (N5, 000,000) ;
2. The sum of 100,000 as transport fare for the representatives of the families to come to Abuja;
3. The Sum of One Million Naira (N1, 000,000) as NYSC Insurance Cover.
However, there was no mention of the automatic employment for siblings of the deceased NYSC members into the Federal Civil Service. Recall that the Federal government at a special session hosted in the villa by President Jonathan in 2011, promised as compensation automatic employment for siblings of the deceased corps members into the federal civil service.
The SGF had in a memo dated 8th May, 2013 and signed by Mr Charles Bonat, Permanent Secretary (GSO), requested the groups to contact the National Youth Service Corps Directorate Headquarters which handled the payment of the compensation to the families of the ten (10) slain Corps members.
In compliance with the SGF’s directive, the groups in a letter dated 4th June 2013, forwarded another memo to the Director General, National Youth Service Corp, Brig-Gen Nnamdi Okore-Affia notifying him of the SGF’s directive that the groups should follow-up on the FOIA request at the directive since the NYSC handled the payment of the compensation to the families of the ten (10) slain corp members.
It is worthy of note that the groups previously sent a FOIA request to the NYSC DG’s office demanding information on the status report on the payment of compensation to the families of the dead corp members. Despite the 7 days stipulated period under section 4 of the FOI Act 2011, the DG NYSC has consistently ignored FOIA request forwarded to his office.
Photocopies of Oceanic Bank cheques, e-Payment Mandate Form to Unity Bank, copies of internal and external memos on the payment were attached as annexures to the report.
Speaking on behalf of the youth groups, the Head of Research, Policy & Advocacy, YIAGA, Samson Itodo, commended the Secretary to the Government of Federation for obeying the law by providing the information requested. According to him, the SGF is setting a good precedent that other public institutions should emulate. The Freedom of Information Act, 2011 is an enforceable law in Nigeria hence our avowed conviction that every public institution or agency must respect the law at all times.
He expressed the disappointment of the youth group in the Independent National Electoral Commission for failing to provide information sought using the FOIA on the status of prosecution of electoral offenders. Section 150 of the 2010 Electoral Act vests the power to prosecute electoral offences in the Commission. In recognition of this statutory provision, the groups forwarded a FOIA request to the Commission in April 2013 demanding a status report on the prosecution of those arrested in connection with the death of the 10 NYSC members who were killed while on national election duty. Till date, INEC has failed to respond to the FOIA request. It is important to note that the continuous non-disclosure of the requested information by the Commission is a violation of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
It is obvious that INEC has not satisfactorily performed the responsibility vested on it by virtue of Section 150, Electoral Act, 2010 to prosecute electoral offences. It is worthy of note that the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, on numerous occasions proclaimed INEC’s lack of capacity to prosecute electoral offenders which accounts for the Commission inability to undertake timely prosecution of offenders.
The group called for the passage of an Electoral Offenses Commission Bill that seeks to establish an Electoral Offences Commission saddled with the responsibility of investigation and prosecution of electoral offenses thus relieving INEC of the onerous task of prosecuting electoral offense. This is consonance with the recommendation of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee.
As we match towards the 2015 elections we will continue to stimulate discourse on the continued involvement of NYSC members in the management of elections. While we support INEC’s decision to use NYSC members for the 2015 elections, we will not hesitate to resist through civil means any attempt by the Commission to deploy young people for elections, if their safety and security is not guaranteed.