By Silver Nwokoro
Condemns prosecution of Suraju for ‘exposing’ Malabu oil scam
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 into law.
The body, in a statement issued by its National Coordinator, Chino Obiagwu (SAN), urged full implementation of the contents of the Act.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on February 25, 2022 signed the bill into law. The president withheld his assent to the initial amendment bill in November 2021 on grounds of cost of conducting direct primaries, security challenges and possible manipulation of electoral processes by political players.
The bill was sent back to the National Assembly for further revision. On January 31, 2022, the National Assembly transmitted the revised amendment bill, which the president has now assented.
According to the LEDAP, the electoral process in Nigeria has been marred with varying irregularities and fraught with anxiety, ranging from unequal participation at the elections to inability to ensure free and fair election.
“As Nigeria prepares for 2023 general election, it is hoped that the amendment Act will improve the electoral process and encourage more transparency in our electoral system as the new Act provides Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the power and guidelines to address electoral offences and in managing practices and processes of political parties’ primaries as well as registering voters,” LEDAP said.
The group applauded the new Act for its provision to encourage more women in politics as it demonstrates the nation’s interest in women political participation and encourages their inclusion in Nigeria’s leadership.
LEDAP therefore urged INEC to brace up courageously to fully implement the new Act, to continue to improve Nigeria’s democratic and electoral processes.
Meanwhile, the group has condemned the prosecution of the chairman of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, for exposing alleged corruption against the former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in the Malabu oil block allocation scam.
LEDAP, in a statement, said Mr. Suraju has consistently made public massive bribery and abuse of power against Mr. Adoke and other foreign companies, for which some are currently facing criminal charges in Italy.
“Rather than investigate the allegations raised in Mr. Suraju’s many petitions, the Attorney General has elected to prosecute him, undermining the so-called anti-corruption agenda of the regime,” it argued.
Mr. Suraju was on February 18, 2022, arraigned on a two-count charge filed by the office of the AGF before a Federal High Court in Abuja. He was accused of cyber-stalking Adoke.
According to the organisation, no mention was made of the veracity or otherwise of the corruption allegations by Suraju.
Mr. Suraju was charged under section 24 of Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act, 2015, which the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court of justice has earlier declared as contrary to Nigeria constitution, because it infringes on the right to freedom of expression and the press.
LEDAP said the prosecution of Mr. Suraju, not only violates his right to freedom of expression as provided in the 1999 Constitution, but constitutes a blatant attack against human right defenders and anti-corruption crusaders in Nigeria.
These, according to the body, are patriotic citizens who are fighting for public interest.The group, therefore, urged that Federal Government to investigate the allegations of corruption against the former AGF relating to the Malabu Oil scam, and withdraw all charges against Mr. Suraju.