Provocative comments: Bayo Onanuga, others, dragged before ICC

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*Media director , All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign council, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, presidential candidate, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has acknowledged the receipt of a complaint by a Nigerian, Prof. Gideon Christian, urging the court to investigate the media director of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign council, Mr. Bayo Onanuga for inciting ethnic hate, which fuelled election and post-election violence against individuals from a specific ethnic group in Nigeria.

The petitioner also asked the court to investigate election and post-election violence in the country.

In a letter dated March 27, 2023 and marked OTP-CR-109/23, the ICC acknowledged receipt saying: “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.”

Christian had in a petition entitled: “Request to investigate the election and post-election violence in Nigeria as well as incitement to ethnic hate by Mr. Bayo Onanuga” prayed 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.

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.

Recall that Onanuga had tweeted: “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigerian state. It is not No Man’s Land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business. pic.twitter.com/8LO6QNq6cb

   — Bayo onanuga (@aonanuga1956) March 18, 2023

Amid reports of violence including loss of lives, election disruptions, voter suppression and intimidation by political thugs and hoodlums across Lagos during the March 18 governorship and legislative elections, Onanuga tweeted again saying the owners of Lagos State emphatically made a loud and clear statement that Lagos is not ‘no man’s land’.

“I hope the Obidients and their LP have now realized that Lagos is not ‘no man’s land’. The state has indigenous owners and today they emphatically made the statement loud and clear,” he said.

Onanuga’s tweet was reported to the Twitter management for being inciting and racially discriminatory, but after the microblogging app said the tweet does qualify for removal, the APC PCC media director made another tweet saying he owes no one an apology for what he said.

“My traducers dragged me to Twitter. Twitter ruled I have done nothing wrong.

“Let me make myself abundantly clear: the views I express on Twitter are my personal views. I don’t owe anyone any apology for addressing the existential threats of our people. I am after all, first of all a Yoruba, before being a Nigerian.”

The petitioner argued that promoting attacks against individuals from a particular ethnic group residing in a particular area was a clear violation of international law and urged the international community take action not only to prevent such acts from recurring but also hold to account individuals involved in such international wrongdoing.

The petition reads: “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 where 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 individual from the Igbo ethnic group including those who ‘looked like them. Mr. Bayo Onanuga was clearly one of such persons.

“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.

“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.”

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