The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), in collaboration with Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), on Thursday, February 16, 2023, held a symposium on Federalism, Democracy and the 2023 Election. The event was held at the Rockview Hotel Royale, Wuse 2, Abuja, Nigeria.
In his opening remarks, Dr Chido Onumah, coordinator of AFRICMIL said the conference was taking place amid heightened calls for a review of Nigeria’s federal system, which has continued to provoke questions about what the federating entities should be, citizenship rights and fiscal federalism. He further encouraged all to participate effectively in the conference, especially as the 2023 Elections is around the corner.
The Nigeria Social Action Camp 2022 held in Port Harcourt was another opportunity for the Civil Rights Council Units Nationwide to organise its National Convention and take stock of its activities, challenges, and progress made in the past year and outline programs of activities for the coming year
On the 4th day of the Nigeria Social Action Camp Program, members of the Civil Rights Council drawn from across the units of the organization met to discuss and chart a way forward for all CRC units in the country. The convention was specifically to review the activities of the Civil Rights Council across the units and in various states chapters of the C.R.C. The Convention was presided over by the National Coordinator of the C.R.C Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna Esq. and the various state and unit coordinators of the organization.
The convention resolved that all C.R.C Units must maintain a register of Membership from the various units, Identification Card, maintain contact and keep a record of all activities including the creation of a new C.R.C Unit with the zonal offices which is at Abuja for C.R.C Units in the Federal Capital Territory and other states in the Northern parts of the country, Warri Office which is for units in Delta State and Edo State, Port Harcourt Zonal Office which is for Rivers State, Bayelsa State, Akwa-Ibom State, Cross River State, Imo State and Enugu State. It is expected that the particulars of all the units including details of memberships program activities should be logged at the zonal offices periodically.
In line with constitutional provisions the convention took far-reaching decisions and unanimously arrived at the following conclusions:
The ratification of Okpanam Civil Rights Council Units, which were created from Asaba Civil Rights Council.
The dissolution of Delta State State Executives of the Civil Rights Council whose tenure has expired in October 2022.
The setting up of a three-Man Committee to run the affairs of Delta State Civil Rights Council made up of Gabriel Omorere as Chairman, Joy Edibine and Sundrex Ogor as members.
The fixing of a general election for Delta State Civil Rights Council for the 11th of December 2022.
The reconstitution of the leadership (management committee) of Bayelsa, Owerri (Imo State), Akwa-Ibom State and Enugu State Civil Rights Councils Units.
Finally, the conference adjourned for the Nigeria Social Action Camp, 2022 for another National Meeting of the C.R.C
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.