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
In Uyo the Anticorruption Network (ACONET) members joined the Uyo Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC on Monday, December 9, 2019 on a citywide walk to sensitize the public against the adverse impact of corruption on the country’s economy and especially the citizens. The 2019 Anticorruption Day street campaign therefore, sought to sound a clarion call on Nigerians to ‘Wipe out corruption totally!’
This according to the EFCC Uyo Zonal Head, Mr Garuba Dugum, is important because ‘any society or a nation that does not check corruption in the system is bound to fail in all ramification.’
In a related development, ACONET was also represented at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission – ICPC events to mark the World Anti-Corruption Day, with the theme; “United Against Corruption”.
Anti-corruption Day Rally in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State
The ICPC events kicked off with a citywide public awareness and sensitisation walk from the ICPC office in Ewet Housing Estate, to 4 Lanes, connecting Oron Road, then to Uruan Street and back to the Integrity Lecture venue at Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo.
The State Commissioner, Mr. Sola Shodipo represented by the Director of the Legal Department, Barr. T. U. Kalu; stated that, the fight against corruption should not be limited to the ICPC alone, because the consequences transcend the commission and charged everyone to be on the alert.
Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) Media Chat
Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) organised a Media Chat as part of its activities to mark the international Anticorruption Day. The Media chat began with a brief introduction of invited stakeholders by the ACONET State Coordinator, Ann Udonte. She expressed her gratitude to all the stakeholders and representatives of the press present for honouring the invitation to the roundtable discourse. The media chart was focused on amplifying anticorruption efforts through collective actions. She emphasised that the Network will keep reaching out to the related MDAs in the state in partnership, knowing that the interest of the citizens ACONET work to serve must always come first. The State Coordinator expressed her delight in the partnership and collaborations she envisaged in the future of anti-corruption activities in the state and shared some success stories of ACONET in the fight against corruption in the state. The CLO Chairman, Comrade Franklyn Isong, in his goodwill message commended the Government for the Treasury Single Account and recommended special courts to try corrupt politicians because, according to him, the delay in convicting corrupt individuals kills the process. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the manners in which the projects of the state were carried out and went further to query the Ministry of Works on the poor state of roads in the state. Comrade Isong demanded that the state open up its portal to enable an effective and efficient tracking of budget; which he believed would afford the public the opportunity to make proper inputs on the plights and aspirations of people. He concluded with a charge to the media to wake up to their responsibilities.
Akwa Ibom Anti-Corruption Network (ACONET) Media Chat
Representative of the Joint Association of Persons Living with Disabilities (JONAPWD) – Mr. Ubong Udo Mr. Ubong Udo representing the Chairperson, JONAPWD Akwa Ibom State Chapter, stated that there is a strong link between corruption and the conditions of people living with disabilities. According to him, corruption is the major cause of high cases of disabilities in the country. So many preventable diseases are allowed to escalate because of poor management of the health institutions. Sharing the story of his disability, Mr. Udo said he became blind because the nurses and doctors on duty gave wrong diagnosis about a preventable glaucoma infection and he attributed this to the carelessness, irresponsibility and negligence on the part of Government. He also stated that some group of persons are using persons with disabilities wrongly, they make budgets for them without first evaluating their needs; they propose scholarships that do not get to any of them. He also queried the need of having special primary schools and not having Special Secondary Schools and Universities to cater for those with peculiar needs graduating from these schools.
The media chat also had in attendance the State Director, National Orientation Agency Mr. Enoh Uyoh, Democracy Africa Youth Parliament – DAYP representative by Comrade Akan James and representative of the Foundation for Civic Education, Human Rights, and Development Advancement (FoCEHRaDA) – Clifford Thomas, Esq. Others include representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) – Comrade Effiong Nya, the Traditional Institution – His Royal Highness Etinyin Edet Nyong Eken the ICPC Barrister Ugbo Kalu and the Media.
In an interactive session, questions from media persons present were adequately addressed. Barrister Clifford Thomas, while giving the vote of thanks on behalf of the stakeholders, charged the Government of the day to be responsible and monitor activities of contractors. He concluded by appreciating the Network on behalf of the participants for conveying the dialogue and reiterated the commitment of all stakeholders, present, to the fight against corruption.
Members of the Media Awareness and Justice Initiative (MAJI), under her project tagged the Electorate Awake and Participate Project, which is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) paid an advocacy visit to Social Action Nigerian, to seek collaboration for the implementation and demonstration of key policies at the state and local government level of governance.
The visitors were received and welcome by Mrs. Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor the Head of Programmes, Social Action Nigeria and other members of staff at the Abuja office of Social Action on the 19th of November 2019.
Here are pictures from the event.
”Mrs Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor Head of Programmes Social Action welcoming the Guests at the Meeting”
The meeting commenced with an introductory session at about 12noon in a friendly and heartwarming atmosphere. Those present at the meeting from MAJI were, Ikechukwu Ahaka, Onyekachi Okoro, Kentebe, Ifunanya Ezewuzie and Tamunotonye Felix Moses. From Social Action were Mrs. Vivian Bellonwu Okafor, Mr. Botti Isaac and Osuoka Faith Levi.
The evil of corruption and the adverse effect on the entire facets of society does not discriminate. Corruption induced poverty has sunk its proboscis on the living tissues of the old and young, male and female, able and disabled people. This anathema is determined to condemn the people to scrounge for what is rightfully theirs in perpetuity as long as the victims prefer to remain docile.
This fact was reiterated at a consultative meeting held on the 19th of June, 2019 in Port Harcourt by Social Action with people living with disability (PWD). The program examined the challenges PWDs encounter in a fast-changing world and attempted to provide solutions to resolutions reached.
Prince Ekpere, while welcoming the PWDs and other stakeholders to the event, noted that the cost of corruption on the people can best be described as deprivation, which has led to underdevelopment, lack and poverty and wondered how PWDs are able to cope in a society that does not care for its citizens. He assured participants at the event that issues raised will be documented and mainstreamed into activities and programs for advocacy and engagements with relevant stakeholders
Neglect and discrimination was identified as one of the major issues confronting the development of the disability community in Nigeria and Rivers State in particular, Stella Ekina of the visual impaired cluster opined that efforts should be made to declare free, inclusive compulsory education for PWDs, as education remains the channel through which enlightenment can be achieved, she also said that government should be willing to sponsor those who have identified one skill or another to learn as a way of empowering PWDs and elevating their plight.
Miss Lydia Kelly narrated her ordeal during the just concluded general elections when she attempted to vote and questioned the rationale behind non-provision of support and materials to enable PWDs vote, saying a large chunk of eligible voters were disenfranchised because they are PWDs
Figure 1. A cross-section of PLWD in a consultative meeting with Social Action Port Harcourt
Nation Mathew decried the state of the only school for PWDs in the state and called for more schools, saying it won’t cost the state government anything to situate at least one of such schools in each of the senatorial district.
They decried the manner in which those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that PWDs are provided for have rather chosen to increase their sufferings, by deliberately allowing corruption to fester on.
Mr. Idor Livinus of the ICPC reassured the PWDs of their willingness to bring to book any government official who has in one way or another been involved in the diversion of funds meant for the development of PWDs in the state, he encouraged them to write to the commission to investigate such officials.
Mr. Ellis Nria Dapper, a director at the national orientation agency, emphasized the need for increased awareness and sensitization of the public on the need to stop discrimination against persons with disabilities, saying no one chooses to be born to disable, and encouraged PWDs to visit the NOA office more frequently to address some of the issues they face.
Figure 2. a call for free, inclusive compulsory education as a way of achieving enlightenment and empowering the PWDs
Prince, in conclusion, made a short presentation on problem-solving and assured all, that the strengthening youth participation against corruption (YPAC) project is interested in ensuring equal access for all despite their socials and or economic status.
It was agreed that PWDs, NOA, ICPC and social action will lead joint advocacy and engagement activities to various stakeholders in the state, to ensure that PWDs are not left behind in the development scheme of the state.