The head of Nigeria's panel investigating last month's electoral violence says uncovering the causes of that killing will help prevent future unrest.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan appointed the 22-member panel to determine what led to last month's killing and how to prevent such violence in the future.
Panel chairman Sheikh Ahmed Lemu says the group has no illusions as to the enormity of their task and their responsibility to the nation.
“Our findings and recommendations in the course of this assignment, diligently applied, will go a long way in eradicating these seemingly-intractable acts of self-inflicted violence, Inshallah,” he said.
A Nigerian civil rights group says at least 500 people were killed in fighting between Muslims and Christians when supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, rioted after Jonathan, a Christian, was declared the winner.
President Jonathan has sought to strike a religious balance in an investigation that he says will be carried out by Nigerians of unquestionable integrity, patriotism and commitment to justice. While Islamic scholar Lemu is the head, his vice chairman is the former supreme court justice Samson Uwaifo, a Christian.
Lemu says the panel starts its work at a time of great national distress.
“We are quite appreciative of the great responsibility the current circumstances impose on the federal government, particularly in terms of taking adequate steps to determine and inform the citizenry as well as our international development partners of how these events came about and where those whose culpability is proven therein to stand vis-a-vis our laws,” he said.
Lemu says it is particularly troubling that this violence occurred around a general election that was widely acclaimed by both local and international monitors to have been the most transparent in Nigerian history.
“Once again," he said, "the Nigerian nation is confronted with a series of tragic and traumatic events occasioning great distress to many families in different parts of the country. These acts of violence, wonton carnage, and mindless destruction of property are all the more disheartening because they were acts inflicted upon the nation by none other than Nigerians.”
Buhari has distanced himself from the violence carried out by his supporters. But his party is challenging President Jonathan's election in court, alleging that the outcome was rigged by electoral commission computers that both increased Jonathan's vote totals in southern states and decreased Buhari's vote totals in northern states.