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ICC accepts petition against Tinubu’s spokesman, Onanuga, over alleged incitement of violence



The International Criminal Court (ICC) has formally acknowledged receipt of the petition filed by a legal expert, Gideon Christian, against Bayo Onanuga, APC Campaign Council Director of Media, over alleged incitement of violence in the country following the 2023 elections.

The acknowledgments letter was dated March 27, 2023 and signed by Mark P. Dillon, Head of Information & Evidence Unit, Office of The Prosecutor.

The letter reads: “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 had asked the ICC to investigate the ethnic violence during the 2023 general elections.

He specifically accused Onanuga of threatening voters on Twitter to stay away from Lagos politics in the aftermath of the exercise.

Christian argued that such a move was a gross violation of international laws and should be investigated.

Excerpt of the petition reads thus: “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.

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“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.

“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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