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. 

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.

 

Concerns Over Nigeria’s Growing Public Debt

By Jonathan Are, Communications Assistant
There has been a massive outcry over the increasing rate of borrowing by the Nigerian government. The Nigerian public debt profile rose significantly between 2015 and 2017. As at June 30, 2015, Nigeria public debt stock was N12.12tr. However, as at December 2017, the debt had increased by over 72% to N21.7trn, a difference of N8.25trn in two years. It is important to note that this amount is more than the entire budget allocation for 2018. Similarly, Nigeria’s spending on debt servicing in the same period climaxed at 34.02% of the nation’s revenue.

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The Impact Of REDD+ Implementation On Women In Cross River

By Ndidi P. Anih and Fyneface D. Fyneface
The descriptive name of the scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) hides issues such as whether women were involved in the initial decision making on whether or not the scheme should be implemented in their villages, especially in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. Here, most women indicated that they did not know about these matters. For those who did know, they said they were not invited to meetings when those decisions were made.

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The Niger Delta and the Politics of Usable Nigerians

By Omolade Adunbi

Omolade_AdunbiLife expectancy in the Niger Delta averages just 40 years, compared to between 53 and 55 within Nigeria as a whole. Yet, the Nigerian state and the multinational corporations operating in the Niger Delta have refused to address the historical processes that led from a ‘usable’ Niger Delta of the 1950s, to a current population of unemployed, ‘unusable’, youths castigated to the margins of Nigerian society.

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Oil Theft, Pollution and the Politics of Modular Refineries

FynefaceRecent pronouncements on modular refineries by the federal government have ignited excitement among youths seeking legitimate employment away from artisanal refining of crude oil. However, modular refineries are neither a community development alternative nor a sustainable option for addressing widespread youth unemployment. Social Action calls for a new conversation to identify alternatives to the destructive petroleum industry.

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Whose Budget Is It Anyway? From Secrecy to Openness of Civic Spaces at the Sub-National Level

HenshawKen Henshaw, Programmes Manager of Social Action, reflects on efforts to promote public finance accountability in the states and local governments of Nigeria

In Nigeria, quite often, accountability in the management of public resources is sacrificed on the altar of cronyism. This state of affairs may be more established at the sub-national levels where about half of all public revenues in the country are expended. While there is a justified focus on the federal government and the office of the President, in particular, many citizens do not tend to pay attention to the 36 states and 774 local governments which together receive almost 50 percent of all federally collected revenues – not to mention internally generated revenues. However, the significant allocations to states and local governments from the Federation Account on a monthly basis hardly translate into real benefits for the majority of citizens. Even more worrisome is the breeding of citizens’ apathy towards sub-national governments – the local government councils, in particular. Rather than the tier of government closest to the grassroots promoting participation, what we find is alienation, which further reinforces non-accountability of public officials.

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Rivers Government Land Grabbing: Uncertainty as Ogoni Farmers Reclaim Land, Plant Cassava

FynefaceUncertainty pervades some Ogoni communities over ownership and access to farmlands that had been the subject of land grabbing by the Government of Rivers State.

In 2011, the government confiscated community farmlands for a private banana plantation, developed by a Mexican company. After six years of killings, human rights abuses by state security services, community resistance and legal battles, the Mexican company has abandoned the land. With a change of government in the state following elections in 2015, the company was not sure of continuous patronage. By 2016, community members had retaken the land and planted cassava and other local staples.

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