#ENDSARS: THE MILITARY COMMITTED MASSACRE AT LEKKI TOLLGATE

Nigerian Military men The LeaderNg

The Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, which is investigating incidents of police brutality in Lagos, has determined that the conduct of armed military personnel and police officers against innocent youths at the Lekki Tollgate amounted to a massacre. This summation appears in the final report delivered to the state governor on November 16, 2021, a little more than a year after its inauguration and first sitting in Lagos. This revelation is anticipated to put an end to a year-long debate about whether the soldiers truly committed a massacre.

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THE PLIGHT OF OGONIS HIGHLIGHTED AS CRC JOINS TO CELEBRATE OGONI DAY

Members of CRC Bori, after the meeting

Ogoniland is one of the most polluted areas in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where decades of reckless petroleum industry practices have severely devasted the environment. The Ogoni, an ethnic nation in Rivers State, waged peaceful struggles against oil pollution from the 1990s. Under the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), community members organised protests against the oil companies and the government. The Ogoni demanded recognition of their cultural rights and their rights to livelihoods. Although oil companies produced and exported billions of dollars worth of petroleum from the Ogoniland, the wealth generated from this region does not correspond with the underdevelopment of the area. The communities still lack basic amenities like good drinking water, equipped medical centres and adequate housing. The Ogoni demanded resource control to enable the Ogoni to develop badly needed infrastructure and social services.

It was for this course that Kenule Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni ethnic activists were killed by the military junta of General Sani Abacha in 1995. The murder of Ken Saro Wiwa was a devastating blow to the Ogoni people as the Prolific writer and environmental Activist dedicated his life to fighting for the marginalized people of Ogoni who lived in abject poverty despite being part of the goose that lays the golden egg.

Marking the 26th Anniversary of the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others recently in Bori, Civil Rights Council collaborated with other Ogoni leaders to speak up on the needs of the Ogoni people, while demanding the exoneration of late Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni martyrs that were brutally murdered. Speaking at the event held at the traditional headquarters of the Anglican Church Bori, the Zonal Chairman and spokesman of Civil Rights Council, Comrade Dumka Deemua, expressed the need to halt any form of oil exploration in Ogoni land for the best interest of the people as the land needs to heal.

Land and environmental devastation due to oil pollution

Corroborating Deemua’s statement in his goodwill message, the leader of the Ogoni People Assembly, (OPA) Comrade Williams Probel also stressed the need for not just an exoneration by the federal government but an apology to the families of the deceased who lost their sons in the face of the struggle on the 10th of November 1995. Other prominent sons of Ogoni who spoke were Comrade Aluzim Emmanuel, Professor Zabbey of CERHD and others. Their speeches were targeted at awakening the consciousness of the struggle amongst the Ogoni people and the need for the people to always live with that consciousness in view. Prayers sessions and goodwill messages by religious leaders were crucial parts of the event as the clergymen seized the opportunity to encourage the people to embrace peace and love in the face of the struggle.

Ogoni day is celebrated every 10th of November to mark the death of the six Ogoni activists and to draw attention to the plight of the Ogonis and the devastation of Ogoniland and the need for urgent remediation of the land and environment.

APPROACH TO PROMOTING ACCOUNTABILITY, INCLUSIVE AND EFFICIENT SERVICE DELIVERY BY THE NDDC

Group photograph of participants of the Town Hall Meeting

As part of the effort toward Strengthening Civic and Community Actions against Corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC”, under a project supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Social Action organized a town hall meeting in Benin City, the capital of Edo state to x-ray community approach to promoting accountability, inclusive and efficient service delivery by the NDDC. The town hall meeting was attended by community leaders from across the state, religious leaders, government officials from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, women groups and members of the PWDs. It focused on strengthening citizens’ participation in the NDDC budgeting process and the implementation to ensure inclusive and effective service delivery across the region. The meeting also opened space for citizens and duty bearers to interact on how collaboration between community structure and NDDC could be enhanced such that projects implemented by NDDC reflect the yearnings of the people.

A cross-section of participants at the Town Hall Meeting on Community approach to promoting accountability, inclusive and efficient service delivery by the NDDC

While setting the tone for the discussion, the Programmes Coordinator of Social Action, Isaac Botti in his opening remarks noted that the Niger Delta region has remained underdeveloped despite being the region where over N100 Trillion naira has accrued to the nation from oil extraction activities. He noted, sadly, that 21 years after the creation of the NDDC as an intervention agency to ameliorate the negative impact of oil exploration in the Niger Delta, the region is still living in a deplorable state of environmental, social and economic deprivation. He blamed the lacklustre performance of the NDDC on the lack of engagement by citizens and citizens’ groups with the Commission which has now created the culture of endemic corruption in the institution. He noted that citizens have the key role of independently over-sighting the activities of the NDDC to ensure that they deliver on services that would benefit all in the community. Isaac, therefore, charged participants at the meeting to take advantage of the occasion to come up with concrete strategies and ways to effectively engage NDDC for improved and efficient service delivery.

While delivering a presentation of “Budget as a veritable tool for effective service delivery; a community approach”, Isaac stressed the need for Niger Delta citizens to be part of the NDDC budget development process. He highlighted areas of windows of opportunities for citizens to engage in the budgeting process and participate in the implementation. Isaac noted that corruption thrives in an atmosphere of docility; that when citizens are not concerned with how the budget is developed, they are indirectly creating a breeding ground for corruption.

Panelists making their contributions at the Town Hall Meeting
Panelists making their contributions at the Town Hall Meeting

Panelists at the meeting lamented the level of corruption in the NDDC system. They noted, with regrets, how the government and the management of NDDC have deliberately marginalized the people in the process of delivery on essential public goods by concealing important fiscal documents such as the budget from the public. The panelists pointed out how some persons including people living with disabilities are mostly affected by the poor service delivery by the NDDC. Members of the PWDs and women groups present at the panel lamented the poor state of infrastructure and how it affects them. They, therefore, call for a collaborative approach- a working relationship between community people and NDDC to ensure inclusive and efficient service delivery.

In responding to both the presentation and the panel discussion, participants expressed their pleasure with and appreciated the opportunity to be invited to the meeting. They decried the process of building projects into the NDDC budget without consultation with the people the projects are meant to serve. They called on the government to make conscious plans to ensure that community leaders are carried along in their plans. They also urge traditional leaders present to do their best in advancing the interest of the people and ensuring that the people are carried along. Their recommendations also included the incorporation of persons with disabilities to be involved in the planning and budgeting process of the NDDC Projects, in line with global best practices. Finally, they warned against the use of NDDC for political patronage and called on the President to make the forensic audit report available to the public

ANTI-CORRUPTION NETWORK TO COLLABORATE WITH THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION

Group picture of members of the Rivers Anti-corruption network with The EFFC boss and their public relations office

Findings of investigations carried out on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) initiated by the legislative and executive arms of the federal government of Nigeria indicate a high rate of corruption evident in contract racketeering, payments for fictitious contracts, award and payment for ridiculous staff bonuses and project abandonment, to mention a few. Despite the huge sums of money released to the NDDC as an intervention agency since its inception, the Niger Delta communities continue to experience a steady decline in social and economic standards.

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END-SARS ANNIVERSARY: SOCIAL ACTION JOINS OTHER CSOs TO DEMAND FOR POSITIVE TRANSFORMATION IN GOVERNANCE

Panelists at the Press conference (L-R: Comrade Oladimeji Macaulay, Rafiu Adediran Lawal and Godwin Kingsley)

As part of the activities to mark the first anniversary of the 2020 #ENDSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria, Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action participated in a press conference organized by the Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS).
The event which was held in Social Action’s Conference Hall, Abuja on the 20th of October, 2021 created a forum for civil society organizations, members of the press as well as concerned citizens to commemorate the anniversary of the Lekki Tollgate killings, deliberate on the significance of the #EndSARS movement and the continuous shrinking civic space in Nigeria.

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THE TOWN HALL MEETING ON PROMOTING PROBITY IN THE NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

Attendees listen as the Project Coordinator of Social Action, Comrade Botti Isaac gives his welcome address.

At the Town Hall Meeting held in Port Harcourt, titled “Promoting Probity in the NDDC to Rebuild Accountability Tenet and Public Trust”, organized by Social Action with support from the MacArthur Foundation, citizens of the region decried the lukewarm attitude of the federal government with regard to the forensic audit. They expressed disappointment over what they perceived as deliberate efforts to protect cronies and politically exposed persons who have been indicted by the forensic report. They noted that there is no possible explanation for the delay in making the forensic report public except for possible cover-up or editing of the report. They further lamented the deplorable state of infrastructure across the region, noting that NDDC has failed to meet this massive infrastructural gap. They, therefore, call for an immediate investigation into the alleged 12,000 abandoned projects and contracts. That they should be held accountable for the trillions wasted on those projects.

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SOCIAL ACTION CAMP 2021

Civil Society members, activists, students, youths and security agents gathered for a camp meeting for intensive lecture sessions and capacity building focused on “Reclaiming the Civic Space: Building Popular Movement for Social Transformation. The Camp meeting, which is an annual event of the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), was hugely successful as participants were able to learn, contribute and ask relevant questions.  Resource persons at the camp include professors, Marxists, lawyers, activists, doctors, and comrades from different states in Nigeria. Several online posts and live streams were employed to cater for participants who could not physically attend the meeting as the Covid-19 guidelines for gathering was adhered to.

The welcome address by the Executive Director, Dr Isaac Osuoka, was read by the Programs Coordinator of Social Action Sir Botti Isaac. He emphasized the need to reclaim the civic space so that CSOs can achieve the common goal of freely participating in influencing the social structure that will lead to the desired social transformation. Goodwill messages, a welcome charge, group discussion, a film show, and group presentations were part of the activities conducted to mark the first day of the event.

Dr Godwin Frank laid the foundation for the discourse on reclaiming the Civic Space

Addressing attendees during his presentation on day two of the camp meeting, Professor Nna Johnson of the University of Port Harcourt spoke on “The Struggle for Self Determination and Democracy: The deepening crisis of state making and separatist agitations in Nigeria.” According to him, though democracy promotes the freedom of individuals and groups to aspire for self-determination, such freedom is constrained. These agitations are tantamount to rebellion as it is the national interest of the state to determine when to support a cause as self-determination or rebellion.

Looking at the role played by women from the pre-colonial days while trying to build movements for social transformation, Comrade Rita Kigbara spoke on “The Role of Women in The Struggle for Social Change in Nigeria.” Drawing examples from women who in history, had pulled giant strides during the struggle for social change, she noted that women have and are still playing key roles in recent progressive movements. Such movements as #BringBackourGirls, #ArewaMeToo and #ENDSARS, not so long ago, are movements significantly empowered by the feminist coalition.

Barr Rita KIgbara speaking on the Role of Women in The Struggle for Social Change in Nigeria

The coordinator of the panel session Dr Godwin Frank laid the foundation for the discourse on reclaiming the Civic Space. During the roundtable discussion where he spoke on “The shrinking civic space and the attendance human rights issues in Nigeria,”. He echoed the increasingly threatening situations faced by agitators who have made attempts to recover the shrinking space as the constitution which he referred to as anaemic is not capable of protecting the rights of the Nigerian citizens because the laws were written with the interest of the ruling class in view. Comrade Jaye Gaskiya echoed the same points as he delivered the keynote lecture “Reclaiming the Civic Space: building popular movement for social transformation” which was the theme for the 2021 Social Action Camp meeting. According to him, where there is a need for social transformation, there is the question of what transformation the agitators seek. Speaking further he asserted that the movement for social transformation must be done with the intention to see the problem of the people differently, proffer solutions different from that of the ruling class and organize the rest of society to realize solutions proffered. The Civic Space keeps shrinking as the freedom to organize an assembly to express views is subjected to the extent to which the state can tolerate such expression and allow such an organization to assemble. Comrade Gaskia also noted that for the Civic Space to be reclaimed and movement built that will bring about social transformation, there is the need for organization, mobilization, leadership, initiative, purpose and politics. Organisation should be seen as a process and as a structure put in place to tackle the social misappropriations imposed by bad governance, he concluded.

Comrade Jaye Gaskia on Reclaiming the Civic Space: building popular movement for social transformation

The meeting which had several youths in attendance was a fertile ground for Comrade Jaye as he also spoke on “The Role of the Youths in Setting the Agenda for System Change: A Continental Review.” The renowned activist took attendees on memory lane citing the reasons why Youth Movement like the #Endsars though, gaining international recognition was defeated. He opined that, while separation will not solve the problem of social emancipation, the youths must organize a movement in their own image, with a demand that will resolve their problems under a leadership and political party.

To abate the reshuffling of the same leaders which has gradually become the norm, it is expected that citizens, especially the youth choose to participate in the process. This was according to Comrade Ken Henshaw who spoke on “The Role of Civil Society in Shaping the Agenda Towards 2023 Election.” According to him, the popular cliche for citizens to get their voters’ cards, come out and vote and protect their votes are all fairy tales as the voter’s card does not determine who wins the election. The youths must therefore refuse to be an agent as the activities of the government is bent on covering the civic space. They must organize effective collaboration against government’s encroachment, document advocacy and protest actions restricting civic space.

A cross-section of participants at the Social Action Camp enjoying every bit of the program

Focusing on the issue of Human Rights, Barrister Njoku Victor Nweke spoke on Human Rights Law in Nigeria Within the Context of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Amended Police Act. He discussed extensively the issues of human rights, and the new provisions made to the amended Administration of Criminal Justice Act to ensure the protection of human rights and to punish offenders. He concluded that as good as the Act may seem, it takes the knowledge of the citizens to be able to demand the respect of the law and the enforcement of their rights even if it means seeking legal redress.

The meeting ended with statements from Rosa Luxembourg Country representatives addressing participants and affirming the purpose of the annual event, targeted at fostering positive change in social movement and leadership.