International Criminal Court (The Court)

Nigerian law professor drags Onanuga, others before International Criminal Court for ‘inciting ethnic hate’

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Nigerian Professor of Law and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Calgary, Gideon Christian, has petitioned the International Criminal Court (The Court) at the Hague, in the Netherlands, to investigate the Director of Media and Publicity, Bola Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Mr Bayo Onanuga, over the latter’s alleged role in inciting ethnic hate during and after the just-concluded General Elections in the country.

International Criminal Court (The Court) at The Hague, The Netherlands

Prof. Gideon Christian is asking the ICC to investigate the conduct of Mr Onanuga in inciting ethnic hate that culminated in violence against the Igbos in Lagos.

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Also, the Prof Gideon petitioned the court to investigate ‘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 action.’

Prof. Gideon Christian

According to the Canada-based professor this ‘will prevent future conducts that will breach rules of international law.’

Gideon’s petition is the biggest action following the request to the Department of State Security (DSS) from Director of the Tinubu Campaign group, Femi Fani-Kayode, to arrest the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) and his running mate, Dr Peter Obi and Dr Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, respectively, for allegedly making inciting statements in the aftermath of the 2023 elections.

Mr Onanuga had posted a series of Twitter messages seeming attacking critics of his principal, Tinubu, either or others targeted at supporters of the opposition parties which had filed suits at the Presidential Elections tribunal challenging the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Tinubu as President-elect.

Onanuga is credited to have referred to those criticising his principal as ‘sons of bitches’ in a recent Twitter post, among several other statements, some of which he has reportedly deleted in the heat of the condemnations that trailed the write-ups.

The Law professor’s petition before the ICC is titled; ‘Request to Investigate the Election and Post-Election Violence in Nigeria as well as Incitement to Ethnic Hate by Mr Bayo Onanuga.’

Gideon who addressed his petition to the current ICC Prosecutor, Mr. Karim Khan KC, a Briton, alleged that Onanuga’s conduct in inciting ethnic hate ‘which fuelled election and post-election violence against individuals from a 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.’

As he further posited in his petition that ‘promoting attacks against individuals from a particular ethnic group residing in a particular area is a clear violation of international law.’

Mr. Bayo Onanuga

“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,” he wrote.

“Pursuant to art. 15 of the Rome Statute, please accept this communication to the International Criminal Court (the Court) request in 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 Igbos) as well as individuals who ‘look like’ people from that ethnic group.

“It is on record that prior to that election, 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 right to vote.

“While this complaint is not strictly about deprivation of that right (which admittedly his 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 individuals from Igbo ethnic groups including those who ‘look like them. Mr Bayo Onanuga was clearly one of such of persons.

“Following the completion of the governorship election in Nigeria which individuals from the Igbo ethnic group and others who ‘look 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 the ruling political party’s presidential campaign organization issued a threat on Twitter warning individuals from the Igbo ethnic group that 2023 should be the last 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. Find attached to this letter, a copy of Mr Onanuga’s tweet which has been viewed over 5.5 million times.

“Mr Onanuga is a well-educated journalist and prominent member of the ruling political party. His conduct in inciting ethnic hate which fuelled election and post-election violence against individuals from a 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 action. “This will prevent future conducts that will breach rules of international law,” the full petition read.

It would be recalled that, only last Sunday, the British envoy, had reacted to the catalogue of discriminatory statements credited to some chieftains of the ruling APC directed at the Igbo residents in Lagos.

The attacks which started soon after they were accused of leading the charge by the opposition political parties to secure majority votes during the February 25 Presidential election won in the state by Peter Obi of Labour Party.

It escalated with the March 18 governorship and state Assembly elections in the state as thugs targeted the Igbo residents preventing them from voting, violently assaulting them from electing their choice candidate, Mr Gbadebo Vivour-Rhodes of the opposition Labour Party.

Even as after the declaration of the incumbent APC governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu by INEC as re-elected, the verbal attacks against the Igbo did not stop as it was heated up by the decision of Peter Obi to challenge the declaration of Tinubu as President-elect by INEC.

Before the March 18 election, Musiliu ‘MC Oluomo’ Akinsanya, a chieftain of the APC, had openly threatened Igbo residents who would not vote for the ruling party to stay indoors, even as the police dismissed the threat as ‘a joke.’

After the election, a Spokesperson for the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Mr Bayo Onanuga, took to Twitter to demand the total exclusion of Igbo from politics of Lagos, the former political capital city.

Widely condemned for his divisive statement, Onanuga restated his threat by describing the Igbo as ‘existential threats to Yorubas,’ as he then followed up with the famous  ‘2023 is the last time (they) interfere in South West politics’ warning.

Onanuga has not relented on his anti-Igbo statements till date. Same with Fani-Kayode and another APC chieftain, Mr Festus Keyamo, the serving Minister of State for Labour and Employment.

Incidentally, these men have planked their argument on an old claim credited to the settler Yoruba indigenes, who had claimed that Yoruba is a no-man’s land,’ a statement which has now been turned on the Igbo residents in the state.

However reacting to the trend of anti-Igbo statements, the British envoy while featuring on a live radio show in Lagos, Sunday, condemned the trend of speeches targeted at a particular ethnic community in the state, as he advised against ethnic profiling, while stressing that ‘the strength of Lagos is its diversity as Nigeria’s cosmopolitan city.’

While berating the level of destruction and disenfranchisement of Igbos in Lagos during the just concluded governorship election held on March 18, the envoy also encouraged the purveyors of these ethnic profiling to take a cue from other climes where diversity has improved their societies.

“People chanting anti-Igbo messages and walking on the streets by polling units on election day is totally unacceptable. Not just in Lagos, but also in Enugu and Rivers where we had our teams as well and many other places,” Ben Llewellyn-Jones, British deputy high commissioner to Nigeria, said.

Mr Llewellyn-Jones, in an interview with Nigeria Info FM on Sunday, said the strength of Lagos is its diversity as Nigeria’s cosmopolitan city.

“Why is it that people who pay taxes, who work, who provide teachers, who build businesses, who create jobs, who live in Lagos, who happen to be from a different ethnicity to some other people are not Lagosians? Of course, they are.

“The strength of Lagos is its diversity, and if Lagos can’t be that kind of cosmopolitan melting pot of culture and language and all the things it should be, then really how is Lagos going to succeed?

“If you live in London, you are a Londoner, a British-Pakistan is a Londoner. The British Prime Minister lives in London. My boss, the British foreign Secretary, is clearly British-Sierra Leone and lives in London, they are Londoners,” Mr Llewellyn-Jones said.

However, reacting to the British envoy’s advice, Monday, via his Twitter handle (@realFFK), Fani-Kayode blasted the UK deputy high commissioner for meddling, insisting that ‘They are not supposed to interfere in our internal affairs, to be partial, to tell us what to do or to tell us how to do it. They are meant to observe in studied silence and make their concerns and representations, if any, known privately.’

Fani-Kayode then challenged the envoy ‘to do his very worst. We are not your slaves. Nigeria is an independent sovereign nation. We are no longer a colony. To hell with him and those that are egging him on and licking his feet.’

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