Civil Rights Council members made up of Ughelli, Warri, Asaba and Okpanam Civil Rights Council Units in Delta State, on the 29th of July, 2022, carried out the first phase of political sensitization programme in various rural communities in the state under the theme: “Voters Sensitisation: Together we can shape our future, Voter registration is your right”. The sensitisation activities were in furtherance of the political education programme of the C.R.C in the state towards enlightening the citizens, particularly those in the rural areas, to participate actively in the political processes leading to the 2023 General Election in the Country.
Civil Rights Council Members Asaba, during the sensitization program
The activities targeted the active youth populations in the rural areas who, rather than participate actively in the electoral process, are willing to act as thugs and agents of violence to disrupt electoral processes. The activities were designed to engage the youths, educate and mobilize them and encourage them to exercise their political franchise and participate in the electoral process as agents of change.
Speaking at the gathering in Asaba, prior to the takeoff of the rally, the Secretary, Delta Civil Rights Council, Comrade Joy emphasized the importance of the sensitisation program to arouse the political consciousness and stimulate the interest of rural dwellers who constitute the majority of the population but have lost trust on the credibility of the system. According to her, electoral malpractices are possible when citizen don’t take seriously their civil duties and responsibilities in accordance with extant laws as stipulated in the electoral act. She therefore encouraged youths to participate in the process and shun the idea of being used as willing instruments by corrupt politicians to hatch their selfish ignoble plans.
Civil Rights Council members Warri carrying out sensitization program
Similarly, in Warri, the Program Officer of Social Action, Comrade Joshua Gberele, urged members of CRC Warri to use the power of the media, develop skills and tools of advocacy to reach the citizens in order to deepen political education and create the needed political consciousness for an informed citizenry. This, he maintained, will lead to informed political choices, political accountability and good governance in Nigeria. He assured the Civil Rights Council of continued support from Social Action within the ambit of available resources, to drive home their campaigns and advocacy programmes.
Governor of Rivers State, Bar Nyesom Wike, on the 26th of July 2022, signed the contract award for the construction of the 11th and 12tn flyover in Port Harcourt amidst condemnations and descanting voices against the projects.
In reaction to this development, the CRC called a state-wide press conference to prevail on the governor to have a rethink on the said projects. This is considering the cost of similar projects, the concentration of other flyover projects in the state capital and the overall implication on the state resources against competing aspects of the state economy that needs urgent attention.
The Civil Rights Council considered the project of less-significance to human capital policies that will ensure job creation for the teaming youths, which will assist the fight against insecurity in the state
Speaking at the conference, the Chairman of the CRC in Rivers state Comrade Arinze Akupue, noted that initiating a new project of that magnitude at the twilight of the life span of the present government may lead to abandonment with its social and economic impacts on the life of the citizens. Furthermore, he stated that should the government feel a strong need to build more flyovers, they should conduct an environmental impact assessment to determine its necessity in the proposed sites.
The National Coordinator of CRC, Comrade Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna Esq, while concurring with the state Chairman, stated that it was imperative that government considers investment in priority areas of the economy and guided by the principle of maximizing scarce state resources. He said that investing billions of Naira on flyover projects in the midst of ravaging hunger and unemployment among the citizens is unfortunate, unacceptable counterproductive. He called on the government to create opportunities that would reduce poverty and expand the productive base of the state.
Citizens’ engagement, public institution accountability and transparency have emerged as crucial priorities and formed a part of a broader demand for the realization of good governance and societal reforms; therefore, engaged citizenship and demands for accountability and transparency are mutually inclusive. The idea of citizenship is beyond the membership status, it is also an expression that involves a deeper understanding of civic responsibilities to one’s community; it is a necessity for a virile democratic system. Recognizing this inevitable role of citizens is key to efficient and effective social and political institutions and processes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Civil society groups in Nigeria have called for a major overhaul of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which they described as a cesspool of corruption. Below is a communique issued after a meeting on Friday, July 17, 2020.
In Benin, the capital of Edo State, citizens and the civil society community joined the international community to mark the international anticorruption day 2019. On the 9th of December, 2019, Action for Socio-political and Economic Change (ASEC) held a one day symposium on the theme ‘Creating the nexus between citizens and government on public accountability’. Participants were drawn from different civil society organizations and citizens in Edo State to keep them abreast of their roles in ensuring public finance probity and participation in government policy formulations and implementations.
Leftist Omobude Agho, the Coordinator General of Edo Civil Society Organisations making a presentation at the symposium
The Coordinator of Action for Socio-political and Economic Change, Comrade Osazee Edigin in his opening remark, quickly brought participants to speed on the Social Contract principle based on the premise of an existing agreement between citizens and government in achieving a well organised society where roles and obligations are documented in the country’s constitution and various legal instruments. He further went on to lament the deliberate refusal of government in opening its books for citizens to see how their commonwealth is being deployed. In his simple analogy, he stated that, government is swift in taking tax evaders to mobile courts where judgment is summarily dispensed but adamant in releasing information to citizens on how same taxes collected are utilized.
He faulted Edo state government for not releasing information sought by civil society groups in the state which had led many of such requests ending in civil litigations in court. Participants were tasked in taking the use of the Freedom of Information Act to the local government council’s level which is closest to the people.
Coordinator of Action for Socio-political and Economic Change, Comrade Osazee Edigin making his opening remark at the symposium
In his remark, Leftist Omobude Agho, the Coordinator General of Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO), decried the poor level of citizens participation in governance which is a major setback in engendering responsive governance. He posited that, the reason government at all levels can undermine the power of citizens is because citizens show little or no interests in how their resources are being utilized on projects and general management of the state.
The main symposium was anchored by the guest facilitator, President Aigbokhan Esq, an expert and analyst in Freedom of Information Act, public accountability and transparency who delivered a paper on ASSETS DECLARATION SOVEREIGNTY: A MODEL FOR A CORRUPT FREE GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA. He highlighted that sovereignty belongs to the people wherein government draws its legitimacy from. The link between regime of asset publication under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 was also established. The role of civil society groups and citizens in engaging public office holders was not left out. He took participants through a journey of the need for citizens to use the Asset Declaration form in monitoring and curtailing the quest of amassing wealth by public officers. Participants were informed of their rights to information as contained in the public officer asset declaration form which enable citizens to know the worth of any public office holder prior to assumption of office and his worth during and after leaving office. He emphatically informed participants that, the asset declaration process is applicable to all public office holders including the President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Judge of Nigeria, Governors and every other person that is holding public office in trust for the people. Questions were asked by participants and responses were offered by the facilitator.
The Anti-corruption Day Symposium was organised by Action for Socio-political and Economic Change (ASEC) and supported by Social Action
Anti-Corruption Day Road Procession on the Streets of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Anti-Corruption Day Rally
The Bayelsa NGOs Forum, BANGOF with support from Social Action carried out activities to mark the International Anti-corruption Day in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state with the Theme; ‘’Corruption; Impediment to the Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The rally which was organised in partnership with the National Human Rights Commission in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state was targeted at raising public awareness for anti-corruption in the state.
While addressing the crowd at the Peace Park, BANGOF charged the anti-corruption agencies to collaborate with one another and create a synergy to ensure the campaign is given enough teeth in other to crush corruption in the state. The statement by the organisation further outlined the negative effects of corruption in the social and infrastructural development of the Niger Delta States and charge the citizens not to consider the immediate gratification that corruption offers but rather consider the overarching interest of the people. Bayelsans were also encourages to report any case of corruption to the appropriate agencies for prosecution.
Participants displayed different anti-corruption messages, banners and inscriptions as they walked through the street of the capital city. 28 persons representing 21 civil society and media organizations participated in the rally which took off from the Yenagoa main motor park known as Ekeki motor park through the busy streets of Yenagoa and terminated at the Peace Park, opposite Government House at Ovom.
In continuation of the programmes outline by the Bayelsa Anti-corruption Network to mark the International Anti-corruption day, the Network featured in a 30 minutes Live Audience Participation Radio discussion at the Rhythm 94.7 FM in Yenagoa Bayelsa state. The discussion on the theme “Corruption; Impediment to Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” provided the platform for the Network to reach out to the listening audience of the radio station in Bayelsa and the neighbouring states. The programme elucidated call in from several audience who concurred with the studio guests and encouraged the Network not to rest on its oars to ensure that the state is rid of corruption. Other callers who wanted to know how to join the network in the campaign against corruption were directed by the Network members to BANGOF’s secretariat in Yenagoa.
Members of the Anticorruption Network in Bayelsa State on a live radio programme to mark the Anticorruption Day 2019