The International Criminal Court (ICC), yesterday, formally acknowledged receipt of a petition written by Prof. Gideon Christian to investigate election and post-election violence in Nigeria as well as alleged incitement to ethnic hate by Mr Bayo Onanuga, the Media Director of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu.
The ICC, in its acknowledgments letter dated March 27, 2023, with reference number OTP-CR-109/23, was signed by Mark P. Dillon, Head of Information & Evidence Unit, Office of The Prosecutor.
The letter read: “The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court acknowledges receipt of your documents/letter.
“This communication has been duly entered in the Communications Register of the Office. We will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
“Please note this acknowledgement letter does not mean an investigation has been opened, or that an investigation will be opened by the Office of the Prosecutor. As soon as a decision is reached, we will inform you, in writing, and provide you with reasons for this decision.”
The petitioner, Christian, had in his petition titled: “Request to Investigate the Election and Post-Election Violence in Nigeria as well as Incitement to Ethnic Hate by Mr Bayo Onanuga” invited the Office of the prosecutor to conduct an investigation into a series of ethnically motivated violence resulting in injuries and death during the just concluded presidential and governorship elections in Nigeria.
He alleged that Onanuga issued a threat on Twitter warning individuals from the Igbo ethnic group that 2023 should be the last time they would be interfering in Lagos politics.
According to him, promoting attacks against individuals from a particular ethnic group residing in a particular area was a clear violation of international law, adding that the international community must not only take action to prevent such acts from reoccurring but should also hold to account individuals involved in such international wrongdoing.
The petition was brought Pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute and read: “Pursuant to art.15 of the Rome Statute, please accept this communication to the International Criminal Court (the Court) requesting the Office of the Prosecutor to conduct an investigation into series of ethnically motivated violence resulting in injuries and death during the just concluded Presidential and Governorship elections in Nigeria.
“The European Union Election Observer Mission in Nigeria which observed both elections, in their interim report on 20th March 2023 noted multiple incidents of ‘organised violent attacks’ which resulted in ‘many casualties and fatalities.
“These incidents were the results of incitement to ethnic hatred by Nigerian politicians and their agents, who actively (directly and indirectly) incited groups of individuals to inflict harm on other individuals from a targeted ethnic group (the Igbo) as well as individuals who ‘look like’ people from that ethnic group.
“It is on record that prior to the elections, very influential individuals and politicians especially in Lagos had publicly warned members of the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria not to show up to exercise their constitutional rights to vote.
“While this complaint is not strictly about the deprivation of that right (which admittedly this Court has no jurisdiction), it is evident that in an effort to deprive members of this ethnic group of their right to vote, these politicians and influential individuals incited ethnic hate that resulted in ‘many casualties and fatalities’ to an individual from the Igbo ethnic group including those who ‘looked like them. Mr Bayo Onanuga was clearly one such person.
“Following the completion of the governorship election Nigeria in which individuals from the Igbo ethnic group and others who ‘looked like them’ suffered ‘many casualties and fatalities’ especially in Lagos, Mr Bayo Onanuga, a very influential journalist turned politician and now Director of Media and Publicity in ruling political party’s presidential campaign organisation issued a threat on Twitter warning individuals from the Igbo ethnic group that 2023 should be the last time they will be interfering in Lagos politics.
“Mr Onanuga’s concept of interference arose from the legitimate act by individuals from the Igbo ethnic group in Lagos in exercising their constitutional right to vote anywhere in Nigeria. This statement was issued after individuals from this ethnic group have been attacked and killed in Lagos during the governorship election. The attacks continued after Mr Onanuga’s tweet.
“What is more disturbing about Mr Onanuga’s tweet is the threat of future harm to individuals from the Igbo ethnic group in future elections in 2027,” the petitioner said and also attached a copy of Onanuga’s alleged tweet which he claimed has been viewed over 5.5 million times.
He added: “Mr Onanuga is a well-educated journalist and a prominent member of the ruling political party. His conduct in inciting ethnic hate, which fuelled election and post-election violence against individuals from the specific ethnic group, who were the target of his incitement needs to be investigated to prevent a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and Burundi in the 90s.
“Promoting attacks against individuals from a particular ethnic group residing in a particular area is a clear violation of international law. That violation falls within the jurisdiction of this Court, and the international community must not only take action to prevent such acts from reoccurring but should also hold to account individuals involved in such international wrongdoing.
“I, therefore, request this Court to investigate the conduct of Mr Onanuga and other individuals in Nigeria, who directly and indirectly organised, incited, aided and abated the ethnically motivated election and post-election violence in Nigeria and take appropriate action to hold them responsible for their actions. This will prevent future conducts that will breach rules of international law.”