JUNE 12 DEMOCRACY DAY: ABUSE OR CELEBRATION OF DEMOCRACY 

Lukas Nwachukwu

 

June 12 represents Nigeria’s “Democracy Day” – a day President Muhammadu Buhari chose to honour Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. It marks the anniversary of Abiola’s victory in the 1993 presidential election which was annulled by the then military government. 2021 June 12 Democracy Day marks more than 20 years Nigeria transited from military to democratic government. Civil societies and activists in the country called for nationwide protests to mark this year’s democracy day, to express deep concerns about bad governance and insecurity and the seeming inability of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to handle them.

It is not surprising that Nigerians no longer look to democracy as a system of justice and fairness that prevents abuse and protects the masses. Since 1999, democracy in Nigeria has always been tenuous, patently evident in rights violation, questionable elections, miscarriage of justice, and, repressive policies, spun by few powerful capitalist elites. 

At the protest grounds in Abuja, Lagos, Akure and Abeokuta, June 12 protesters were attacked by the Police and pro-Buhari supporters. Many local and international media bodies reported that police fired tear gas at peaceful protesters and live rounds in the air. Several protesters were arrested and journalists harassed, it was indeed a depressing spectacle and deliberate abuse of democratic principles. It is ironic and heartrending to note that when bandits murder people and insurgents overrun villages, there is hardly any response from the Police, but when harmless protesters march to the streets to express their discontent about bad governance or unpopular government policies, the police come out in their numbers, war-ready.  

Freedom of expression remains a sacrosanct right of every Nigerian. 

With the brutal style of governance in the current administration, the system stymies the desired goals of democracy. The only way to be heard is to speak against the bad governance by the current administration. The masses have long-standing grievances that are expressed on social media and through peaceful protests, but this has often been exacerbated by the poor and cruel government response that is all too common in this administration, like the suspension of Twitter and grand violation of human rights during peaceful protests.

Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is undermining the country’s democracy with numerous anti-masses policies and actions, sectional marginalization, and looting the commonwealth. His administration has become more dictatorial, and increasingly alienated from the masses. Insecurity is rife and manifest in all the regions of the country, and no nation needs a soothsayer to know that the spate of violence and insecurity in the country is hampering the social and economic development of the country to the disadvantage of over 200 million Nigerians. Rather than attack peaceful protesters, this administration should channel that energy towards tackling secessionist tensions in the southeast, banditry and insurgence in the northeast, and mass kidnappings and armed attacks by criminal herdsmen in the northwest and southwest of the country.

It is also troubling to state that the 9th Assembly led by Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila which is operating a rubber stamp-styled legislature has lost the trust of Nigerians. In times like this, a pro-masses legislature should not be silent when the people they claim to represent are constantly intimidated and violated. Regrettably, the legislature has remained mute and has lacked the courage to intervene in matters that adversely affect their constituents.

To regain and strengthen public trust in democratic processes, this administration should be tolerant and listen to the masses, not abuse or intimidate them. Incessant abuse and violations would continue to earn this administration a bad reputation and diminishing public trust in the democratic processes and its outcomes. To this effect, the government should release protesters that have been unlawfully arrested and desist from such in the future. The demand for good governance is not a crime. Freedom of expression remains a sacrosanct right of every Nigerian. 

Pre-Flood Assessment: The State of preparedness of Vulnerable Communities in Rivers State

In the year 2012 Nigeria experienced one of the worst floodings in recent times. Towns and villages were submerged and helpless citizens sacked from their homes. Over 360 persons died as a result and about 2 million people were displaced by the floods that affected 32 states of the Nation[1]. Since then flooding in Nigeria has almost become an annual occurrence with varied degree of destruction of lives and properties depending on the level of the floods in the particular year.

The Nigerian Metrological Agency (NiMet) usually comes up with predictions of possible flooding each year before the rains set in. This is meant to alert citizens and the relevant agencies of government to take proactive steps to curb or reduce the effects of the flooding. But rather than put the necessary measures in place “while the sun shines” to prevent or mitigate losses, the federal, states and local governments choose to wait for the rainy days and subject the people to the inevitability of the eventuality of nature. Nature in its bad day blows no man any good and the regurgitation of the excess volume of water leaves in its wake sad and painful tales. Unfortunately, the few signs of the presence of any government are the usual palliatives of a few food items, drugs and effectual which, in any case, get late to the victims.

In 2020, Social Action continued with its yearly visit to communities in Rives State affected by the ravaging waters and based on its findings reported that government needs to do much more to prevent the effect of flood in these communities which are mainly oil-producing and oil-bearing communities. Recommendations that reflects the suggestions from the communities were published and made known to the authorities with a view to making preparation before the next rainy (flooding) season.

Figure 1 A totally submerged community in Onelga by the 2020 floods

 

In view of the above and for the purpose of prompting the proactive actions of the relevant government and other agencies with the aim of seeking short- and long-term solutions to the problems of flooding, a pre-flood/disaster assessment visit was carried out by Social Action team. This visit was also to sensitize the citizens, in response to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s (NiMet) prediction that some parts of the country may experience food shortages caused by drought in some areas in the country and flooding in some others[2]. This prediction seems to be troubling because of the projected impact on food inflation which already stands at almost 23%.

The locations visited by the team include Ogba Egbema Ndoni, particularly the Okwuzi Community, Aggah Community, and parts of Omoku. In Ahoada West local government area, the team also visited Mbiama and Akinima Communities, Joinkrama and parts of Abua Odua LGA. Others were Rukporku and Nkpolu Communities in Obio Akpor LGA.

 

Figure 2 Image of the landscape of Okwuzi during the flood Figure 3 the same location after the flood

 

Figure 4 Community during the flood

 

Figure 5 The same location after the flood.

 

Figure 6 Submerged Buildings during the flood

 

Figure 7 The same buildings after the flood

 

 

OBSERVATIONS/FINDINGS

The following observations were made during our visit

  1. In all the communities visited, there has been no presence of government or its agencies to take stock of the loss of livelihood, farm crops, destroyed houses etc from previous floods ing. According to Chief Desmond Osuoka of Akinima “We have not seen the presence of any government agency since the last flood except for the few packs of indomie (noodles) that NEMA distributed towards the end of the floods” The same was the account of the other respondents interviewed by the team. “The only time we have any promise from the government was in 2018 when the Vice President came and promised that the federal government will dredge the River Niger. We believed him and were very happy because, we thought, coming from a highly places personality in the Federal Government, a solution had finally come our way but now we know better” Chief J. P. Mazi from Odawu Joinkrama bemoaned

Figure 8 The people expected the government to live up to their promises but in vain- Chief J.P. Mazi

 

  1. Villagers are already making plans to pack out of their communities as this is the only option available to them in the face of the coming flooding.

The team met with some women interviewed last year at the thick of the disaster, who were sacked from their homes by the flood. Mrs Joy Enoch, who spoke to the team said she has already rented a small apartment away from the flood-ravaged area and would be moving her belongings by the end of August to prevent the kind of losses she incurred last year.

Figure 9 “ I’ve already paid for a one-bedroom flat for me and my seven children to avoid the rush hour when the floods come”- Mrs Joy Enoch

 

  1. Many families have moved away from their homes while some houses have collapsed due to the floods. Some new building constructions observed are made on concrete platforms about 9ft from the ground in anticipation of the floods
Figure 10 Building ‘sunk’ by the flood in Odawu Joinkrama

 

Figure 11 A building under construction in Odawu Joinkrama, raised 9 ft above its foundation to overcome the floods

 

 

 

  1. The road leading to Joinkrama from Akinima has been eroded by the last flood and poses a great danger to commuters on that road. If no remediation is done before the next flood, the road may be completely abraded and the Joinkrama community would be cut off from Akinima, the local government headquarters, by road.

Figure 12 A dead-trap; Part of Akinima Joinkrama road eroded by the flood

 

 

  1. The people have lost faith in the government’s ability to take any positive actions towards preventing the recurrence of the disaster that has become an annual affair. Most of the community people interviewed expressed their disappointment with the way the government handles issues of emergency nature. Pastor Dandy Gbewa recalled with a bitter nostalgia that “Government have a way of adding political colouration to everything. In 2012 we made several efforts, in vain, to get the local government to come to the aid of our people. It wasn’t until they realised that we have gone forward to act without them that they waded in towards the end of the flood. They infiltrated the committee with their party members and at some points food and other items realised were seen in the open market.”
Figure 13 Many of the provisions realised for the deployment to the temporary camp for the displaced persons were found in open markets – Pastor Dandy Figure 14 Primary School used for temporary shelter for the displaced in 2012, can still be prepared for use ahead of the floods – Pastor Dandy

 

 

  1. The communities all agree on the point that problem is beyond the communities and need the help of the government. Eze Akuba of Okwuzi posed a question back to the team when asked what the communities are doing or will do to avert the kind of devastation they faced last year- “What do you think we can do? This is not a case of clearing drainages, otherwise, we would have mobilised to do so. This is excess volume of water coming all the way from the River Niger. It is beyond us”

Figure 14 The Team with Eze Akuba of Okwuzi and Chairman Council of Chiefs of Okwisi Community

 

 RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOVERNMENT BY THE COMMUNITIES

To avert future occurrences of the colossal loss of properties and lives, the communities recommended the following short and long-term measures. 

  1. The federal or state government needs to consider the dredging of the Orashi River. This will not only avert the emergency issues of flooding but will create massive job opportunity for the youth.
  2. Government should take stock of properties and other belonging lost during the flood and provision made to subside the loss of victims 
  3. Effective sensitisation should be carried out to let communities know what to do in the event of flooding
  4. Emergency camps should be created and equipped to cater for victims in the course of any flood outbreak.
  5. Provision should be made for drinking water, medicines and food- that mostly requires no refrigeration or cooking
  6. The Vice President should make good his promise to dredge the River Niger. This would open up the water bed to absorb more water and prevent floodings. This is among other huge economic and social benefits accruable from the project
  7. If possible, the government should relocate the affected communities who are ready and so wish to relocate to higher grounds from sea level and embark on massive sand filling on the low flood-prone areas.
  8. The government should construct embankment and shore protection to reduce the effects of flooding in the affected communities. 

 

 

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-20221451

[2] https://dailytrust.com/floods-longer-dry-spell-imminent-in-2021-nimet-report

 

Alternative Water Source for Omoviri Community: The Ministry of Water Resources to make provision in the 2022 budget

The meeting hosted by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, have in attendance representatives of Omoviri community and Social Action team

The people of Omoviri community in Rumuekpe, Emuoha Local Government in Rivers State have been suffering from pollution from substances suspected to be crude oil oozing from the soil. The pollutant has contaminated surface and underground water sources and polluted the soil, disrupting fishing and farming activities which are the main sources of livelihood of the community. This pollution has also given rise to health hazard as the major source of drinking water has been the contaminated river which flows from the Sombreiro into the Orashi watercourse.

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FG TWITTER BAN: ANTI-DEMOCRATIC AND REPRESSIVE

By Lukas Nwachukwu

The Nigerian government suspends indefinitely the operations of the micro blogging site Twitter in Nigeria on 4th June, 2021. In an announcement made public by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, stating “safety concerns”. This ban is coming few days after twitter deleted a post made by President Muhammadu Buhari, which violated “abusive behavior” policy of Twitter, and further suspended his account for 12 hours.

The Twitter ban is coming amid public debate on continuous attempt by the government to censor social media. It could be recalled that Anti-Social Media Bill was introduced by the 9th National Assembly in November 2019 to criminalize the use of the social media in peddling false or malicious information. It was seen by many as a stealthy move to restrict the civic space and was greeted by vigorous pushback by the masses and a robust response by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country.

The Twitter ban is a surreptitious method used by the government to suppress the masses, it is an attack on democratic tenet that provides for freedom of expression and an attack on human rights and independent media. By this decision, this government is treading a dangerous path with unimaginable consequences. This action undermines the foundational principles of democratic governance and the masses’ right to freedom of expression.

Social media gives voice to voiceless Nigerians, democratizing opinions and criticisms about how government should be run, giving marginalized groups a voice to talk about their plights, which obviously the government is not comfortable with. The attempt to gag the masses and muzzle free expression has potentially devastating implication for democracy and the civic space. With a staggering 33% unemployment rate in the country, many young people eke a living from social media platforms like twitter, as influencers, ad and promotion marketers etc. This ban is a deliberate and malicious decision to makes it difficult for Nigerians, both young and old to empower themselves through leveraging on the economic benefits of a platform like Twitter.

We strongly condemn the Twitter ban and the attempt by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to control social media and muzzle Nigerians from freely expressing their opinions. Therefore, the government should reverse this outrageous and dictatorial decision immediately, to restore the vibrant and diverse space Twitter provides.  Anything short of this, will further define this government as a repressive and dictatorial regime with the sole purpose to make life difficult for Nigerians.

PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI’S DEAFENING SILENCE: NIGERIA BECOMING A THEATRE OF BLOODBATH

By Lukas Nwachukwu

With the ubiquitous wave of violence across the country and emerging threats of disintegration, it is crystal clear that Nigeria’s insecurity challenges are getting worse by the day. In recent weeks, there have been countless killings, kidnappings, assassination, destruction of government facilities. The seeming government’s silence in the mix of all this is stirring up bouts of savage inter-ethnic and inter-regional bloodletting in their bid to protect themselves, as it appears the government has failed to do the barest minimum of protecting lives and properties.

 

Over few weeks, in crude and savage attacks, Benue, Ebonyi, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Kebbi, Borno have all recorded varying degrees of killings of children, women and men. Bandit, kidnappers, armed groups are killing, maiming, and terrorizing communities throughout different parts of the country with no apparent fear of being caught and held to account. Instead the military are going from house to house in Gestapo style arresting young men. If only the security forces can go after killer bandits and herdsmen that killed dozens in Benue and Ebonyi states and abducted 200 Islamic students, perhaps, the nation would have experienced peace and stability.

According to Amnesty International report in 2020, both the armed group Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces continued to commit serious crimes in the north-east, including war crimes and likely crimes against humanity. Boko Haram killed hundreds of civilians and carried out abductions which targeted women and girls. Amnesty International also reported that in response, government forces carried out indiscriminate attacks against villages and continued to detain thousands in inhumane conditions. In the north-western and north-central regions, over 1,500 people died in inter-communal violence and bandit attacks, while in the last three months, the country has been grappling with the continuous attacks of unknown gunmen that have left trails of destruction of lives and properties.

The country is already dealing with a staggering humanitarian catastrophe with many Nigerians displaced in the North-East and Middle belt According to a report done in April 2021, by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, following  series of attacks by insurgents in north-east Nigeria’s restive Borno State, up to 65,000 Nigerians are displaced. And it is still unfolding with the recent killings in Ebonyi-Benue border that left over 30 persons dead and hundreds displaced.  This does not go without stating the economic woes, and food crisis that may arise from violence across the country. It is heartbreaking that the lives of many Nigerians are at risk due to government’s negligence.

It is equally sad to note the  large scale destruction of properties and wanton killings by unknown gunmen in the south-eastern part of the country. Several media reports have put the number of deaths recorded in the past week at 150, this is disheartening.. This avoidable bloodbath would deepen the distrust between the masses and the government and risk further alienation between the regions affected as they believe they are ethnically profiled, a sentiment that fans the embers and support for secession.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government represents 6 years of lackluster governance so far, his record has been weak and disappointing on the fight to address insecurity. But the nation needs the President to show leadership, rise to challenges particurly at a time like this when it seems like the nation is tilting towards a collapse. The continued silence would incentivize this violence to grow to a grand and uncontrollable scale.

We condemn the President’s silence and apparent disengagement with the insecurity challenges that Nigerians are facing. We call on the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to prioritize the lives of every Nigerian, rather than trying to sound politically correct and threatening a certain region with war, like his tweet on the 1st of June, 2021 which reads “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”. He should show true leadership that will embody equity and justice that appeal to national cogitation and not ethnic sentiments. Furthermore, he should protect the life of every Nigerian as he swore to when he took the oath of office. The country’s deep socio-political fault lines cannot be resolved through the barrel of guns. Peace cannot be gotten through force. At a time when voices of concern citizens must be listened to, orchestrating a crusade of threat and use of force would only deepen the problem.

 

On-Going Constitutional Review; Civil Rights Council Rejects Another Effort in Futility 

On-Going Constitutional Review; Civil Rights Council Rejects Another Effort in Futility

Being Text of Press Released by Civil Rights Council on This Day 1st June 2021

 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, we have organised this briefing to lend our voice to and state our position on the on-going constitutional review exercise in Nigeria. The Civil Rights Council is a civil society organization committed to the advancement of human rights, rule of law and democracy in Nigeria. As partner and critical stakeholder in the Nigeria project we consider it a responsibility to unequivocally state that the ongoing constitutional review process is nothing but a distraction and an attempt aimed at achieving nothing but to score cheap political points in a failed attempt to win the heart of the Nigerian masses.

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CRC Collaborates with NSCDC on the Respect for Human Rights

Civil Rights Council, Port Harcourt, holds a lecture to educate men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp on the “fundamental human rights of citizen’s vis-à-vis, the power to arrest, investigate and the detention of suspects.” The lecture, which was in collaboration with the leadership of the NSCDC and other stakeholders, aimed to sensitize members of the Corp on how to carry out their duties effectively within the ambits of the law.

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CRC INAUGURATES A RAPID RESPONSE REPORTING DESK FOR DOMESTIC, SEXUAL AND GENDER BASED VIOLENCE

Woman represented at the inauguration of the Rapid Response Reporting Desk for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence by CRC

The defilement of infants and constant rape and molestation of adolescent girls and sometimes little boys is so common among the urban poor. Oftentimes, victims and their parents are too poor and ignorant to seek justice and in other cases, the fear of stigmatization and culture of silence promotes the activities of perpetrators who escape justice and continue with their criminality. This is the reason behind the setting up and inauguration of a Rapid Response Reporting Desk for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. The inauguration which took place on the 19th of May, 2021, at Chima Ubani Centre, attracted other CSOs and community-based organisations.

Over time, CRC as an organization has received reports and intervened in many cases of human rights protection and carried out education across its chapters in different states. However, it’s no news that cases of gender-based and domestic violence has become a reoccurring issue and indeed common among the urban poor prevalent in the slums. The Response Team which is a progeny of the Civil Rights Council became a necessity as the organization’s activities in human rights advocacy, protection and consolidation of the rule law covers issues surrounding domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. CRC has also received several reported cases of wife battering, leading to physical and psychological harm, forcing these women out of their marriages. The possible resultant effect of this is the exposure of the affected children to child labour and sexual exploitation and incest. Also, the male-dominant culture makes it difficult for most women to take up the initiative to divulge some of these acts of human rights abuses, often perpetrated by the male folks, to the authorities.

Group Photograph of CRC members some community persons after the inauguration
Group photograph of CRC members some community persons after the inauguration

Therefore, in view of these developments, the need for the Rapid Response Reporting Desk to attend to these cases became a necessity especially within the Diobu axis in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. This initiative is to ensure that such cases receive adequate attention by the CRC upon occurrence so as to ensure timely response in each case. To achieve this, collaboration with the media, security operatives and other NGOs is part of the plans deployed to expand the base of this campaign.

During the inauguration lectures, questions were entertained and explanation given by the facilitators on the various dimensions of rights abuse in their communities. The participants promised to liaise with the organization and other relevant partners to fight the menace of human right abuses in all its guise in our society.

PROPOSED HIKE IN PETROL PUMP PRICE TO N385: CALLOUS AND UNACCEPTABLE

From

Social Action Opinion Desk

Lukas Nwachukwu

According to widely circulated reports, the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) on Wednesday 19th May, 2021, agreed to a recommendation that Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) should be fully deregulated and the pump price be increased to N385. With the socio-economic crisis rocking the nation, the proposed hike in petrol pump price to N385 is nothing short of inhuman gesture to worsen the plight of the already suffering Nigerian masses.

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N39.5 BILLION PROJECT DUPLICATION AMIDST DWINDLING REVENUE: TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY IN PUBLIC FINANCE IS KEY

Figure 1 Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning

As the effect of covid-19 pandemic on global economy bites harder, Nigeria is not exempted, the economy hugely financed from sale of crude continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal decline based on the imbalance between paucity of revenue and large deficit spending. While this is the reality, both spending and revenue imbalance can get worse with unfettered corruption and poor fiscal policy decisions.

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