JUDICIARY WORKERS’ STRIKE: DEMOCRACY IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Written by Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer, Social Action
The indefinite nationwide strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Judiciary workers, which took effect on Monday January 5, 2015 has lingered into the fourth week, with no end in sight to the strike action. The workers, under the platform of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), have vowed not to resume work until the Federal High Court judgement granting financial autonomy to the Judiciary is enforced. The judgement which was delivered by Hon. Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on January 13, 2014, was later followed by several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) agreed between the Nigerian government, representatives of JUSUN and other stakeholders, who all pledged to comply with the court ruling, to allow a free and independent justice system in Nigeria. But the reluctance of the federal and state governments, to abide by the agreed terms of the most recent MoU dated November 27, 2014, has led to the commencement of the current strike action by JUSUN.
The Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), as a civil society organisation, condemns in very strong terms, the failure of government at the various levels to allow the Judicial arm of government have financial independence as expressly provided in Section 81(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which states that: “Any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the Heads of the Courts established for the federation and the state…”. The Judiciary, being the last hope of the common man, must not be made financially dependent on the Executive arm of government, but rather be allowed to exist as a free, vibrant and efficient arm of its own. Hence, the strike action of the Judiciary workers is for a good cause which would fortify democracy in Nigeria.
According to the Executive Director of Social Action, Dr. Isaac Osuoka, “Nigerian leaders must genuinely embrace democratic principles, orientations, ideas and ideals which would bring about good governance, social stability and democratic freedom. Social Action is committed to the promotion of better democratic practices, people-oriented policies, improved livelihoods and the protection of human rights. In that light, I urge all stakeholders to support the call for financial autonomy of the Judiciary, in order to strengthen democracy in Nigeria and bring about an end to the prolonged strike action embarked upon by the Judiciary workers which has affected the wellbeing and livelihoods of a diverse array of Nigerians.”
We lament the loss of livelihoods occasioned by the ongoing strike action. A majority of lawyers earn their living through litigations, and these legal practitioners have been adversely affected by the lingering strike and the closure of the courts. This loss of livelihood has brought hardship upon them and their dependants. Also affected by the strike action, are arrested persons kept in prison custody who seek bail, as well as those who have successfully been granted bail and are ready to meet their bail conditions but cannot, owing to the closure of the courts. These people now languish in prison custody indefinitely, pending the termination of the strike action, while the challenge of prison congestion grows worse as a result.
Sadly enough, poor community folks and vulnerable members of the society who crave for justice in the face of oppression and violation of their rights, have no court of law to seek redress for the wrongs they have suffered. Against the background of the closure of the courts, anarchy seems to be on the rise in the country, and the aggrieved, downtrodden masses silently bear the brunt of it.
With the forthcoming elections scheduled to hold in February, 2015, it is expedient for the courts to be operational, in order for Tribunals to be set up for election petition litigations which may arise, following the conduct of the elections.
We therefore call on the federal and state governments of Nigeria, to uphold the principles of democracy and put the interests of the Nigerian masses above their personal interests by complying with the Federal High Court ruling and the MoU entered into with JUSUN, in order to ensure an autonomous Judiciary. Indeed, the political profitability of denying the Judiciary its financial autonomy, has a prohibitive cost on the quality of the Nigerian justice system.
For further enquiries, please contact Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer of Social Action,on: admin[at]saction.org; lillian[at]saction.org

New Report Highlights Problems With Forest Carbon Trading Scheme In Nigeria

filler

A new report released today highlights how forest dependent communities in Cross River State, south-east Nigeria, are losing rights and livelihoods, as their forests are being locked down by the government, which seeks cash through a United Nations backed ‘carbon trading’ scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

The report, ‘_Seeing REDD: Communities, Forests and Carbon trading in Nigeria_‘, by Nigerian organisation, Social Action, was presented today in Lima, Peru at an event at the People’s Summit on Climate Change, which coincides with the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in the Peruvian capital city.

The report shows how the implementation of the REDD+ mechanism is having a devastating effect on the economies of affected communities around the Cross River forests. With neither adequate consultation nor alternative livelihood options, community members, who have depended on the forests

for generations, are now being victimised by government agents following a ban imposed on economic and cultural activities in the delineated forests. Thus, REDD+ has restricted access to forests where indigenous communities gather food, medicine and energy. Local nutrition and livelihoods are seriously threatened and the attendant scarcity of food products caused by government’s actions have led to increase in the prices of basic food products. Ironically, higher wood prices, occasioned by REDD+, is encouraging illegal logging in the forests.

The report shows how communities are grappling with being implicated in the false solutions to the problem of climate change. While community members suffer the negative effects of climate change which they did not create, they are, through schemes like REDD, liable to being criminalised in the process of enforcing carbon market policies.

“The reduction of emissions from fossil fuels should be the main goal. But measures like REDD+ are diversionary market schemes which are driven

by those who cannot see beyond profits”, according to Isaac ‘Asume’ Osuoka, Director of Social Action. “Communities that depend on the forests are at risk of human rights violations, as authorities could now see them as impediments to maintaining the carbon marketing potentials of forests. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding mitigation of climate change, as we are seeing.”

With REDD+, greenhouse gas polluting countries and companies in the developed world could pay for schemes that promise to reduce deforestation in the developing countries. Thus, developing countries, especially African countries having vast expanse of tropical forests, become ‘sinks’ for greenhouse gases, most of which are emitted from developed countries.

“This is a new form of colonialism”, according to Nnimmo Bassey,Coordinator of Health of the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF). “REDD+ is subjugating African communities and driving new land grabs akin to the colonisation of the continent.”

With the ongoing UN climate conference seeking agreements for global action including the implementation of REDD+ mechanism, citizens groups at the People’s Summit are demanding people-oriented measures that will actually curtail climate change worldwide.

Other speakers at the event included Ruth Nyambura of the African Biodiversity Network, Kenya, Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, USA and Cassandra Smithies, a researcher/campaigner on climate justice.

The report is available at Seeing REDD

NDCBP Releases Citizens’ Report on State and Local Government Budgets in the Niger Delta

filler

 

NDCBP Releases Citizens’ Report on State and Local Government Budgets in the Niger Delta

The Niger Delta Citizens and Budget Platform (NDCBP) is a coalition of civil society organizations in the Niger Delta working to ensure transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation in State and Local Government budget processes. In the last six years, NDCBP has worked with other civil society organizations, the media and communities in conducting budget monitoring, budget analyses and budget advocacy with primary emphasis on the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers states. The Platform’s findings have been widely published in the previous annual reports ‘Carry Go’, ‘Beyond Amnesty’, ‘Spend and Borrow’ and ‘Counting the Votes’ and ‘Wasted Billions’. We are pleased to share with you the latest in that series, ‘Pardoning Impunity: Citizens Report on State and Local Government Budget in the Niger Delta’.

Pardoning Impunity  begins with an interesting discussion on the challenges facing Nigeria and especially the Niger Delta in the past year. Topical issues such as the Petroleum Industry Bill, the state of federal institutions like the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Ministry of the Niger Delta; and corruption in the oil and gas industry, are elaborately examined. The report also presents analyses of the budgets of the focal states, examining how the governments’ income and expenditure have kept trend with the avowed policy directions of the states. Particularly, the interest has been on how much emphasis the governments place on the education, health and food sufficiency sectors in relation to what is required to meet the challenges of those sectors.

The report gives an assessment of the economic downturns witnessed in Nigeria in 2013 following the passage of the Appropriation of that year, with a major focus on an in-depth analysis of the 2013 budgets implemented in five states of the Niger Delta region, namely: Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo. The states were selected based on the criteria of being oil-producing States and the biggest receivers of the 13 percent derivation fund allocated to oil-bearing states in Nigeria.

The report also presents in factual and pictorial details, findings of NDCBP field monitors who in December 2013, visited project sites in the five focal states to carry out firsthand assessment of randomly selected capital projects in the areas of education, health and food sufficiency allocated funds in the 2013 budgets of the states.

Pardoning Impunity is aimed at revealing some crucial reasons why development still eludes the Niger Delta states, while highlighting the harsh reality of the region when juxtaposed with the huge revenue allocations disbursed to it. Widespread poverty, restiveness and an acute dearth of infrastructure, remain the order of the day, in spite of the monthly accruals.

The overall aim of the report is to emphasize the need for state policies and revenues to significantly influence the attainment of sustainable development and all-round wealth creation in the region.

An electronic version of ‘Pardoning Impunity: Citizens Report on State and Local Government Budget in the Niger Delta’. is available here

 

OGONI MARTYRS’ DAY: Social Action releases STILL POLLUTED

filler

Written by Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer, Social Action

As the global environmental justice movement commemorates the state execution of writer and activist, Ken Saro Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni environmental and social justice campaigners who were killed on November 10, 1995, the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) has today released a new report,STILL POLLUTED: Monitoring Government and Shell’s Response to UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland. The report is a product of two years monitoring of the effort of the Nigerian government and oil companies to address the remediation of the environmentally-devastated Ogoniland through the implementation of the concrete recommendations in the report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

The report by Social Action reveals that the response of the Nigerian government has fallen far short of expectations, in view of its responsibility to safeguard the environment, as enshrined in Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

“Everything on the ground in Ogoniland points to complete irresponsibility on the part of the Nigerian government”, according to Dr. Isaac Osuoka, Executive Director of Social Action. “The government set up the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) under the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, a complicit party in the pollution of Ogoniland. The agency was not backed by legislation nor provided with the required funding.  Government must get serious and commence real actions to clean up Ogoniland, which should  serve as a template for replication in the clean-up of other hydrocarbon-polluted communities in Nigeria’s Niger Delta”, he added.

According to Social Action’s report, neither the agency nor the government have done anything worthwhile to restore the Ogoni environment, three years after the UNEP report was released. Even emergency measures such as the provision of alternative sources of drinking water have not been taken seriously by the government. Ogoni community members continue to drink from badly contaminated water wells and bathe in badly polluted streams.

Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 8, were part of a Movement against the continuous oil pollution by Shell and neglect by the Nigerian government. Community protests  ultimately led to the exit of Shell from Ogoniland in 1993. Two years thereafter, Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were executed by the State during the military administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha. But Shell was never able to return to Ogoniland despite several attempts made, as Ogoni people, inspired by the patriotism of their hero, Ken Saro Wiwa, resisted through popular protests, every move made by Shell to resume oil activities in Ogoniland.

However, Shell’s oil pipelines through which crude oil is conveyed from the region to the Port for export to other countries, still remain in Ogoniland till date. Oil spills from these pipelines occur regularly and the environment has suffered decades of environmental degradation.

The federal government of Nigeria in 2008 invited UNEP to carry out an assessment of the pollution in Ogoniland. UNEP released its report on Ogoni environment on August 4, 2011. The UNEP Report contained major revelations and recommendations needed to be attended to by clean-up and environmental remediation exercises.

An electronic version of Social Action’s STILL POLLUTED: Monitoring Government and Shell’s Response to UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland is available here

OGONI CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNITED NATIONS WORLD INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S DAY (OGONI DAY); CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE CLEAN UP OF OGONI ENVIRONMENT AND A MORATORIUM ON LAND SEIZURE!

ogoni-protest

OGONI CLEAN UP CAMPAIGN BANNER BY OGONI SOLIDARITY FORUM (OSF), SOCIAL ACTION AND OILWATCH AFRICA ON DISPLAY AT THE EVENT ON JANUARY 4, 2013, BORI-OGONI

As the world marked January 4, the United Nation’s World Indigenous People’s Day, thousands of persons from divers walks of life including friends, Visitors Environmentalists, Rights Activists etc joined the Ogonis in Bori, the traditional headquarters of the Ogoni people to mark the day locally adopted as “Ogoni Day” by the Ogoni ethnic Nationality in Nigeria on January 4, 2013 to mark its 20th anniversary

Read More