I am very pleased to be here at this very important programme. Today’s celebration of the 2022 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists came at a very crucial time of our nation’s history. As we approach the 2023 General Elections in the country, the role of journalists in the democratic transition cannot be overemphasized.
It is gratifying to note that supporting fair, credible and violence-free electoral process in the country is one of the cardinal themes of the Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Justice National Policy on Justice 2017.
The Policy, which is still enforce, was signed on the 20th September, 2017. It expresses worries on and seeks to address the impunity for crimes regarding some election-related violence and malpractices especially the failure to hold perpetrators accountable. The Policy documents as at 2017 notes:
“The prevalence of election related violence and other malpractices, including physical attacks on (Independent National Electoral Commission) INEC staff and facilities, attacks on security personnel on election duty, misuse of security operatives by politicians, and attacks on political opponents. No effective measures have yet been developed for preventing such violence and malpractices, or for investigating and prosecuting perpetrators”
At the center of the election-related violence are voters, the media practitioners and Civil Society Organizations. In addition to the mainstream media, the Civil Society Organizations proved to be essential components of the advocates for the democratization process in the country.
The Social Media which are also used by the Civil Society Organizations remain essential tool for mass mobilization, enlightenment, advocacy and election monitoring.
We noted, with dismay, reports of some forms of attacks on journalists and voters by suspected hoodlums during elections in some parts of the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government is committed to bringing to an end these undemocratic and uncultured activities through the administration of legally justifiable approaches on the perpetrators in order to serve as deterrence to others. I am pleased to say that the Federal and some State Governments have taken precautionary and proactive steps in taming the tides.
It is imperative to renew our call on those involved in electioneering process to appreciate the fact that political activities are to be observed in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Law. Let us join hand in making sure that all campaign utterances are humane and in conformity with global best practices, thereby contributing to violence-free electoral process.
As the 2023 election campaign gathered momentum, we chose the theme of this celebration to revolve around “Media, Civil Society and Violence-free Election in Nigeria.” This proactive engagement. It has objective of enlightenment to shun electoral offences with the sole intention of making healthier processes at all levels of electioneering campaigns.
It is important to note that recent developments in Nigeria proved that the Federal Government has laudable initiatives to end impunity for crimes against Nigerian citizens. Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) report says Nigeria was the only country to get off the index of nations with impunity for crimes against journalists in 2020. The Federal Government renewed commitment to end impunity for crimes against journalists.
The 2020 global index for impunity for crimes against journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), released on Wednesday 28th day of November 2020, indicated that Nigeria is the only country that came off the index from 2019.
This achievement is not unconnected with deliberate and committed efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government through the implementation of many reforms in the Nigerian justice sector to include increased access to justice, speedy justice dispensation, decongestion of Nigeria’s correctional centers and judicious implementation of the Criminal Justice Act.
Let me express our appreciation our partners; the Management Conflict in Nigeria (MCN) programme of the European Union supervised by the British Council and the Kano State Government under the able leadership of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for their support to this programme.
We thank the Hon. Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhamad and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission for being part of this historic event and those who participate physically and virtually in making this event a reality.
I urged the participants to make the best use of what they stand to gain by the careful selection of eminent scholars, practitioners and experts in various related fields. I wish you fruitful decelerations. The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice looks forward to receiving the recommendations of this policy dialogue.
It is on this note that I hereby declare this policy dialogue open.
Abubakar Malami,SAN, CON
Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and
Minister of Justice