President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the International Criminal Court (ICC) of free, fair, and credible elections in 2019.
He noted that efforts were being made towards averting the kind of violence that characterised the 2011 elections which necessitated investigations by the International Criminal Court.
“Let me intimate the ICC that Nigeria is preparing to conduct general elections in 2019.
“Contrary to the tragic incidents that characterised the 2011 general elections in Nigeria which necessitated preliminary investigations by the International Criminal Court, I assure you that all hands are on deck to prevent any recurrence of such tragic incidents.
“We shall do everything possible to ensure that Nigeria witnesses the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019,” Buhari stated on Tuesday, at the Solemn Hearing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the ICC, at The Hague.
Recall that in the wake of the violence that broke out after the 2011 general elections in Nigeria, scores of innocent Nigerians lost their lives, prompting condemnation by the international community.
Buhari urged state parties to support ICC with jurisdiction over serious cases of corruption and illicit financial flows by state actors.
He added: “A strong and effective ICC has the potential to send a powerful message about the international community’s commitment to accountability, a message that will be heard by both victims and perpetrators.
“Equally, a strong and effective ICC demonstrates the international community’s commitment to the rule of law.
“A strong and effective ICC can also act as a catalyst for other justice efforts, expanding the reach of accountability.
“These could include serious cases of corruption by state actors that severely compromise the development efforts of countries and throw citizens into greater poverty.
“These could also include cases of illicit financial flows where countries are complicit and obstruct repatriation of stolen assets. As the African Union champion on anti-corruption, these are issues dear to my heart.”
He said the election of a Nigerian, Chile Eboe-Osuji, as President of the ICC was a laudable development both for Nigeria and the continent.
While congratulating Eboe-Osuji on his election, the President said Nigeria was proud of him.
Buhari recalled that the court was established 20 years ago as a global court, inspired by the Nuremberg trials of World War II war criminals, to hold people accountable for crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of genocide and aggression.
He noted that the ICC had given hope for justice to many by demanding strict adherence to the rules of international humanitarian law.
With the alarming proliferation of the most serious crimes around the world, the president said the ICC, and all that it stands for, was now needed more than ever, in ways that were unforeseen by its founders.
He added that although the ICC may have been created at a time of optimism that it would not need to be utilised frequently, but that, unfortunately, the increase in international crimes had increased the court’s relevance.
He said while limits on the ICC’s jurisdiction meant that it could not presently act with regard to some of the dire crises of the day in states that were not parties, by acting where it could, the ICC reinforced the demand for justice far beyond its own cases.
According to Buhari, Nigeria had always cooperated with, and supported, the court at all times.
This, he said, the country had demonstrated by its full and transparent cooperation on matters on which it was being investigated and also in its several country statements at the sessions of the court.
“Our cooperation with the court is borne out of our strong belief in the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and in our firm commitment to the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at international and domestic levels, as ingrained in the objectives for establishing the court,” he added.
While admitting that the goals and responsibilities of the court were challenging and daunting, Buhari noted that with the cooperation of all, coupled with the high calibre of judges and staff of the court, the challenges were not insurmountable.
He, however, admonished state governments not to politicise the decisions of the court but to always bear in mind the rationale for its establishment in the first place.
“I urge all states that have not yet done so, to, as a matter of deliberate state policy, accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court so that it can become a universal treaty,” he added.
The Nigerian leader is the only president invited to grace the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute.
Over 25 high-level state officials; the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, O-Gon Kwon; ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda; ICC Registrar, Peter Lewis; UN Legal Counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares, and other special guests attended the event.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has announced that the 2019 general elections would cost the nation a whopping sum of N242, 445,322,600.00.
In a letter to the upper chamber of the National Assembly read by President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, the president explained that while N164,104,792,065.00 would be sourced through virement in the 2018 budget, the balance of N78,340,530,535.00 would be provided for in the 2019 budget.
According to the breakdown of the cost, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would take N189,207,544,893.00, the Office of the National Security Adviser takes N4,281,500,000.00; Department of State Services (DSS), N12,213,282,455.00; Civil Defence, N3,573,534,500.00; Nigeria Police Force, N30,541,317,432.00, and Nigeria Immigration Service, N2,628,143,320.00.
President Buhari, in the letter, said, “As you are aware, the 2019 general election is scheduled to be conducted early in 2019.
“To ensure that adequate arrangements are made for free and fair elections, it has become necessary to appropriate funds to enable the relevant agencies to commence preparations.
“INEC and the security agencies have, accordingly, recently submitted their requests.
“These have been subjected to the usual budget evaluation. The aggregate cost of the elections is estimated at N242, 445, 322, 600.00.
“However, in the light of prevailing fiscal constraints, I am proposing that the sum of N164, 104,792,065.00 be provided for through virement or supplementation of the 2018 budget.
“I propose that the balance of N78,340,530.535.00 mostly related to personnel allowances, fuelling and other costs not required until the election proper, be provided in their 2019 budget.”
In the same letter, President Buhari told the lawmakers that he would not propose a further increase to the size of the 2018 expenditure framework to fund critical items.
Accordingly, the president said that N228,854,008,215 should be removed from the N578,319,951,904 inserted projects by the lawmakers in the 2018 budget.
The letter reads, “You will also recall that when I signed the 2018 Appropriation Act, I indicated the need to request the reinstatement of certain cuts made to certain critical projects provided in the original Executive Bill.
“I am, therefore, submitting for your consideration the reinstatement of the most critical of such cuts totalling N64,749,216,150.
“The total amount required to be provided for in the 2018 budget for the 2019 general elections and to restore the identified critical projects to the amount earlier proposed is therefore N228, 854,008,215.
“Implementing a budget of N9.12 trillion for 2018 will be extremely challenging and, therefore, I do not consider it expedient to propose a further increase to the size of the 2018 Expenditure Framework to fund these very important and critical expenditure items.
“Accordingly, I invite the distinguished Senate to consider, in the national interest, reallocating some of the funds appropriated for the new projects which were inserted into the 2018 budget proposal totalling N578, 319,951,904 to cover the sum of N228,854,008,215 required as noted above.”