With every passing election circle comes massive unleashing of physical violence from armed political thugs which in the past elections have resulted in several casualties.
Sadly, Nigeria’s elections are not just marred by election related killings, but even the post election –era often witness some of the most troubling criminal acts of attacks and killing by thugs armed by politicians.
Ironically, these killers usually walk free after they execute their assignments of mass killings and life continues as usual for Nigerian. There is no transparent way of people demanding accountability from their government and by that way, impunity reigns supreme.
A very disturbing dimension in all of these wars over election outcomes or methodologies, has also been that the ad-hoc staff largely made up of young graduates serving Nigeria for their mandatory year long service under the NYSC scheme are often the primary targets of these killers and are used as canon fodders.
The ugly truth is that many of these Corpers have in the past paid the supreme price only because they accept their posting to help out with the elections as ad-hoc staff.
In the year 2011, when the current president, a former military dictator lost election to president Good luck Jonathan, his loyalists went to war, killing, maiming every human beings on sight just as score of young citizens serving under the NYSC Service year were killed in Bauchi.
A detailed report was done on that post election violence. But the sad reality is that the Bauchi coordinator then of NYSC spoke tongue in cheek attempting to conceal the fact that corpers were indeed victims of that dastardly crime of mass killings carried out by supporters of the then Presidential Candidate Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). The then governor who was once a banker was quoted in the newspapers as saying that the cruel fate meted out to the corpers were their destiny.
Tried as much as this lying coordinator of NYSC in Bauchi State did to hide the truth about the fatalities recorded by NYSC in Bauchi, the facts and empirical body of evidence became overwhelming.
Nigeria being the largest black democracy in the World, Its election usually attracts a variety of observers from all around the World. So the year 2011 post election violence got huge volumes of reports authored by groups of Civil Rights activists drawn from the United States of America and Great Britain. Also, local newspaper reports said that about ten corpers got killed in the Bauchi mayhem.
Human Rights Watch of New York USA reports that: “Deadly election-related and communal violence in northern Nigeria following the April 2011 presidential voting left more than 800 people dead, Human Rights Watch said today. The victims were killed in three days of rioting in 12 northern states. Nigeria’s state and federal authorities should promptly investigate and prosecute those who orchestrated and carried out these crimes and address the root causes of recurring inter-communal violence.
The violence began with widespread protests by supporters of the main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim from the Congress for Progressive Change, following the re-election of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the Niger Delta in the south, who was the candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party. The protests degenerated into violent riots or sectarian killings in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara. Relief officials estimate that more than 65,000 people have been displaced.
“The April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but they also were among the bloodiest,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The newly elected authorities should quickly build on the democratic gains from the elections by bringing to justice those who orchestrated these horrific crimes and addressing the root causes of the violence.”
The presidential election divided the country along ethnic and religious lines. As election results trickled in on April 17, and it became clear that Buhari had lost, his supporters took to the streets of northern towns and cities to protest what they alleged to be the rigging of the results.
The protesters started burning tires, and the protests soon turned into riots. The rioting quickly degenerated into sectarian and ethnic bloodletting across the northern states. Muslim rioters targeted and killed Christians and members of ethnic groups from southern Nigeria, who were perceived to have supported the ruling party, burning their churches, shops, and homes. The rioters also attacked police stations and ruling party and electoral commission offices. In predominantly Christian communities in Kaduna State, mobs of Christians retaliated by killing Muslims and burning their mosques and properties.
According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, the umbrella organization representing the majority of Christian churches in Nigeria, at least 170 Christians were killed in the post-election riots, hundreds more were injured, and thousands displaced. The organization also reported that more than 350 churches were burned or destroyed by the Muslim rioters across 10 northern states.
In the predominantly Christian towns and villages of southern Kaduna State, including Zonkwa, Matsirga, and Kafanchan, sectarian clashes left more than 500 dead, according to Muslim and Christian leaders interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The vast majority of the victims in these areas were Muslim.
Human Rights Watch estimates that in northern Kaduna State, at least 180 people, and possibly more, were killed in the cities of Kaduna and Zaria and their surrounding suburbs. According to media reports and journalists interviewed by Human Rights Watch, dozens of people were also killed during riots in the other northern states.
A lecturer at a college on the outskirts of Zaria described an attack on the college: “When you see the mob, they were not in their senses,” he said. “The students ran away but the mob pursued them into the staff quarters and they had nowhere to go. The mob beat them to death and hit them with machetes. Four Christian students and a Christian lecturer were killed.”
Following the violence, a Human Rights Watch researcher drove through smoldering towns in the southern part of Katsina State, interviewed witnesses in the cities of Kaduna and Zaria in northern Kaduna State, and visited burned out villages in southern Kaduna State, including Zonkwa, Matsirga, and Kafanchan, that resembled war zones with entire neighborhoods razed to the ground.
Human Rights Watch conducted more than 55 interviews with witnesses and victims of the violence, Christian and Muslim clergy, traditional leaders, police officials, civil society leaders, and journalists. Researchers also conducted telephone interviews with witnesses of the violence in Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, and Zamfara states.
In many of the northern towns and cities, Christians found refuge in police stations and military barracks. In southern Kaduna State, Muslim women and children flocked to police stations for safety. The police successfully protected people in many cases, but they were largely ineffective at controlling the rioting and violence in other places, Human Rights Watch found. In several cases, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that it was often not until soldiers were deployed to affected areas that the violence was halted.
Both the police and the military were implicated in the excessive use of force and other serious abuses while responding to the rioting and sectarian violence. Human Rights Watch documented eight cases of alleged unlawful killing of unarmed residents by the police and soldiers in the cities of Zaria and Kaduna, and received credible reports of more than a dozen other incidents.
Human Rights Watch also received credible reports that the police and soldiers in Kaduna, Gombe, and Bauchi states systematically beat people rounded up during or after the riots. Many of the detainees charged at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Kaduna city had fresh scars on their backs, journalists who attended the hearing told Human Rights Watch. In the town of Azare, in northern Bauchi State, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that detainees were severely beaten by soldiers and police. One of the detainees’ hands was reportedly broken, while another detainee was hospitalized as a result of the beatings.
“The Nigerian authorities should promptly investigate these credible reports of unlawful killings and other abuses by members of the security forces,” Dufka said. “The use of violence by rioters, mobs, and state actors alike needs to be stopped.”
On May 11, President Jonathan appointed a new 22-member panel to investigate the causes and extent of the election violence.
The police spokesperson in Kaduna State told Human Rights Watch that more than 500 people have been arrested and charged following the recent post-election violence. But police and state prosecutors in the past have rarely followed through with criminal investigations and effective prosecutions.
The day after the presidential election, held on April 16, Buhari’s supporters launched demonstrations in the streets of northern Nigeria. The protests turned violent in 12 northern states as mobs burned the homes, vehicles, and properties of ruling party stalwarts, most of whom were Muslim, and traditional leaders who were seen to have backed the ruling party.
The rioters also began targeting and killing Christians and members of southern Nigerian ethnic groups, who were seen as supporting the ruling party, and burning churches across the north. As the riots spread, mobs of Christians in predominantly Christian communities in Kaduna State retaliated by killing Muslims and burning their mosques and properties.
On the corpers killed, the American group said: “Bauchi State, rioters targeted members of the National Youth Corps Service, who served as ad-hoc election staff. According to media reports and journalists interviewed by Human Rights Watch, on the afternoon of April 17 in Giade, a rural town in northern Bauchi State, rioters attacked the youth corps members in the town. The youth corps members, who were from southern Nigeria, ran to the local police station to seek refuge, but the rioters stormed the police station. The mob killed the police officer on duty and burned down the police station, the journalists said. They raped two of the female youth corps members then hacked them to death with machetes, along with five male youth corps members. In total, rioters killed ten youth corps members in the state.”
These corpers killed were not covered by any sort of life insurance policy and I am not so sure if the NYSC and INEC has this kind of essential life insurance scheme for the ad-hoc staff who work for them during elections.
But two years after those NYSC members were slaughtered by political thugs in Bauchi, report has it that the then President Goodluck Jonathan approved for release as compensation N5.7 Billion.
However, the disbursement of this N5.7 Billion was left in the hands of local politicians in the nine states were deaths, and destructions were recorded. So it can not be said for certain, if the ten Corpers killed in Bauchi ever got any kind of posthumous compensation. Nigeria is such a Country whereby financial contributions for funerals are routinely stolen.
Reading a report in Vanguard, it became apparent that these corpers were actually killed because they are Christians from Southern Nigeria.
The report stated that following the violent protest of the outcome of the presidential election conducted in the state, Four NYSC serving members have been feared dead while Bauchi LGA chapter of CAN has disclosed that 10 people including one Reverend had been killed.
Addressing newsmen, at the police headquarters in Bauchi, the state Commissioner of Police, Amama John Abakasanga also revealed that a woman Police Corporal was killed in Giade when the Police formation in the area was attacked by the enraged youths adding that Police stations in Itas, Jama’are, Giade, Dambam and Misau were torched by the protesting youths.
He further disclosed that so far over 200 suspects across the state have been arrested in connection with the violence protests which have claimed many innocent lives, noting that already intensive investigation has commenced while all those indicted will be charged to court immediately.
Similarly, about four INEC offices have been razed down in Bauchi, Dambam, Misau and Jama’are LGAs while 500 laptops used for the voters registration exercise were looted by the enraged youths who let loose violence on the INEC offices as confirmed by the Bauchi State REC, Iliya Audu who conducted Journalists round the burnt offices.
He also said that two under-aged voters were arrested, Zainab Baba and Abdullahi Ibrahim who were believed to be 14 and 15 years respectively, just as those who orchestrated the violence attack in Bara village during which churches were burnt, adding that the suspects have been arrested and are helping the Police in its investigations assuring that the suspects will be arraigned in accordance with the relevant laws of the land.
Abakasanga, however said that sanity is gradually returning to all parts of the state urging parents and guardians to always check their children to ensure that they did not join bad companies because according to him, most of the suspects arrested are children whose ages range from 10 to 20 years.
In his Reaction to the development, Reverend Lawi Pokti wondered why Christians in Bauchi became targets of the violence by the protesters saying that a number of Churches have been completely burnt down by the irate youths. “I am yet to come to terms as to why they decided to make Christians the prime culprit of the aftermath of the elections.”
According to him “I am sure that not all Christians in Bauchi state voted for Goodluck Jonathan same for the Muslims, not all of them voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of the differences in political ideologies by individuals, so I need somebody to tell and convince me why we should be the ones to bear the consequences of the election which was participated in by all.
From all the reports we have even by foreign observers, this election was the best ever conducted in the country but these hoodlums stole our sleep, our peace and everything, subjecting us to mental and physical torture in our own country, I think enough is enough.”
He added that the attack can be likened to mere hatred of Christians and Christianity saying that, “it is not poverty neither is it lack of education but pure act of terrorism which must be checked by the concerned authorities before it degenerates into another thing that will tarnish the good image of the country.” (vanguardngr.com)
It is for this sort of negligence of statutory obligations by governmental institutions that certain persons think, although wrongly, that the NYSC should either be abolished or made optional.
That sentiment re-echoed during the February 25th Presidential and national legislative poll and the March 18th Gubernatorial and state assembly poll in 28 states of the Federation out of the 36. Over a dozen corpers suffered life threatening violence as circulated by video evidence.
Most commentators are in deep shock why for instance the whooping sum of nearly N 400 billion was released to INEC for the year 2023 election, but not a kobo was spent to purchase life insurance policies for Corpers who are strategic ad-hoc staff of INEC.
This may be why the famous singer turned politician, Olubankole Wellington, a.k.a Banky W has explained why the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, should be optional in Nigeria.
Banky W, who made this assertion on Tuesday during an interview on Channels Television, stated that the NYSC program hasn’t achieved everything it was designed for since its existence.
“I don’t know if there is anybody that will disagree that NYSC probably does not achieve everything it was originally designed for today, so how do we reform it? Don’t cancel it, let’s remove it from the constitution and make it optional, the people who do not need it will go.
“Now you can pay those interested more so instead of paying them N30,000 monthly which does nothing for a young person in Nigeria today. We can pay them N60 – N80, 000,” he said.
Even the DG of NYSC believes that Corpers play a strategic role in conducting national elections. However, the question to ask is why don’t the NYSC and INEC procure life insurance policies for NYSC Corpers during election assignments?
I asked up to ten corpers if INEC gave them life insurance policies before they were drafted as ad-hoc staff for election duties but they denied the existence of such. The interesting thing is that the management of the NYSC are satisfied with the outputs of these corpers who worked recently as ad-hoc staff of INEC. I appeal to the DG of NYSC to press it on INEC to do the needful by getting life insurance policies for all the corpers to be deployed for election related assignments. This is because it took their Parents so much to train them in those Tertiary institutions and some of them are actually the would-be breadwinners of their respective families. So to simply expose them to avoidable violence is heart-rending.
As aforementioned, the Director General of National Youth Service Corps, Brigadier General YD Ahmed had hailed the selfless and tremendous contributions of Corps Members across the country during the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections held yesterday.
He said their participation in the elections has earned the Scheme another accolade in its giant strides for national unity and socio-economic development of the country.
General Ahmed, who monitored the performances of Corps Members that served as INEC ad-hoc staff during the elections in Bunu East Ward 012 Shalgwatar, Dass Central Ward 005 and other areas in Polling Unit 003 Botong Tapshin Ward, Polling Unit 001 Kofar Sarkin Fada Tapshin Ward in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State also lauded their resilience while the period lasted.
The Director General also monitored the Corps Members that worked at Government Junior Secondary School Bogoro and Polling Unit 003, Gwaranga in Bogoro Local Government Area of the State.
In all the places visited, General Ahmed appealed to the electorates to cooperate with the Corps Members who were ready to discharge their election duties towards the success of the exercise.
On the eve of the election, the Director General visited the Corps Members at three different Registration Area Centres (RACs) located inside General Hassan Usman Katsina Unity College, Bakari Dukku Primary School and Shekal Primary School, in Bauchi, where he admonished them to adhere strictly to the electoral laws while discharging their duties.
Nigerians want INEC and NYSC to introduce life insurance for Corpers who are assigned for such national tasks.
No doubt the assignment is risky. The attention of NYSC Management has been drawn to misleading information trending online with the above caption, involving a female Corps Member alleged to have manipulated election results in one of the polling units in Abakpa Ward in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State to favour one of the presidential candidates.
To put the records straight the Corps Member in question confessed that she was stressed out in the work and was very tired during the counting of ballots, she admitted making a wrong entry of election results and having discovered her mistakes, she quickly corrected herself by canceling the error and started imputing the results correctly.
In the process, the electorates around her discovered the mistake and concluded that she was trying to manipulate the election results by recording the LP result for the NNPP candidate.
It is however on record that the corps member on her own observed the mistake and corrected it herself without anybody prompting her.
The allegation that the corps member was induced and sponsored to act in that manner was baseless and unfounded. As a follow up on this the corps member was made to write a report which she attached to the result sheet before submission.
NYSC Management wishes to State categorically that, it would not shield any of her Corps Members that is involved in electoral malpractice, but advised members of the public to be cautious in attributing wrong interpretations to Corps Members’ performances during elections without due diligence as unconfirmed and unverified information could be very misleading to members of the society.
This is a sign that the management cares about the wellbeing of the corpers but going forward, life insurance policies must be obtained from reputable insurance companies for these corpers on election duties. I so submit.
*Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria