January 21, 2019
When Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, there were high expectations that Nigeria, with its vast natural resources and immense human potential, would soon emerge as a country to be reckoned with globally. Almost 20 years down the line, Nigeria remains an underdeveloped country, which recently overtook India as the nation with the highest number of extremely poor people in the world. Today, Nigeria is at the crossroads as the country approaches its 6thgeneral elections, which is already overheating the polity.
The Dramatic Rise of Insecurity
There has been a spectacular rise of insecurity in the country over the past few months. The Boko Haram insurgency has found a new lease of life and has been organizing regular raids against the military and ordinary communities over the past six months. Clearly, the insurgents are telling the world that they have not been technically defeated as asserted by Government. The conflicts between herdsmen and farmers has spread over most parts of the country and according to an Amnesty International Report, there have been 3,641 deaths from January 2016 to October 2018. The conflict has blossomed into large-scale criminality, kidnapping and rural banditry. Today, virtually no Nigerian, anywhere in the country, feels safe.
The Imperative of Free and Fair Elections
As the general elections approaches, Nigerians and indeed the international community are concerned about the apparent decline in the integrity of the electoral process. Civil society observers have recorded a significant expansion of vote buying in the recent Ekiti and Osun elections. Clearly, vote buying is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria as citizens are being induced to sell their mandate for crumbs that will not take them anywhere. The political party primaries were marked by massive fraud and manipulation by the political class. We are also witnessing misuse of security forces, the police and army in our elections. They are being used to intimidate voters from voting as they please. The political campaign rallies are witnessing increased violence and people are being killed. The failure of the president to accent to the Electoral Act, as amended, is another cause for concern. The failure to prioritise electoral reform, ultimately undermines our capacity to make democratic progress as a nation. The buck for this failure stops at desk of the president.
Attacks on the Media
We are witnessing increasing evidence suppression of Press Freedom in Nigeria. The year 2018 saw the arrest and detention of journalists from different media houses around the country. For example, a reporter from Premium Times was arrested for failing to reveal the source of his story, which goes against global journalism standards. This growing tendency towards repression of press freedom have also ensnared bloggers and other opinion writers on the new media. Recently, the Nigerian Army blocaded offices of Daily Trust in Maiduguri, Abuja and Lagos and arrested their journalists, an incident reminiscent of the worst years of military rule.
Civil society believes that a free and proactive press is indispensable in a true democratic society. Democracy thrives when the media plays its role of informing and educating citizens to effectively engage issues of governance and holding government accountable. Section 39(1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria states that, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference’. We must respect this right.
Attack on Civil Society Groups
For the past three years, there have been recurring threats against civil society groups in Nigeria. Amnesty International Nigeria is one of such example which has been regularly harassed by security forces and some faceless rented crowds. It is important to point out that these threats are always issued against Amnesty International Nigeria whenever it issues a report detailing credible allegations of human rights violations in Nigeria. This shows that the attacks are aimed at gagging the organization, undermining credible human rights reporting and covering up systemic violations of human rights. Harassment of civil society activists is a clear threat to Nigerian democracy.
State of Political Corruption
It is no longer news that 116 million Nigerians live on less than 1.25 USD a day, as Nigeria recorded 23 billionaires with collective wealth reaching almost 78billion USD and 43 000 individuals owning assets worth at least 1 million USD in 2016. Despite proclamations of fighting corruption by the present administration in the media, the Corruption Perception Index of 2017 showed a slight deterioration in the scoring of the perception about corruption in public administration compared to 2016. Nigeria slipped in the country-ranking by 12 positions in 2017, which shows that Nigeria is still perceived as extremely corrupt.
Public officials are very quick to make numerous international commitments to tackle corruption and lack of transparency. Yet, majority of the 14 commitments made as part of the Open Government Partnership effort remains unfulfilled. Not one single commitment of the 20 commitments made by the Buhari administration at the 2016 London Summit has been completed. Public contracting remains shrouded in chaos and lack of transparency. Beneficial Ownership register is yet to be completed and asset recovery legislation such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill is still stalled in the National Assembly.
The failure to screen and confirm nominees from the Executive has undermined governance and complicated the on-going fight against corruption in the country. The Presidency is yet to assent to the Petroleum Industries Governance Bill (PIGB) which has been sent by the National Assembly. The Legislature is also yet to conclude work on the three outstanding components of the PIB as both sides continue to disagree.
Regardless of some indisputable evidence, many corrupt politicians and businessmen and women seem to be above the law and out of reach of law enforcement. Recently, the Kano State governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje was alleged to have received a $5million bribe, as revealed in a video clip. Despite this incriminating corruption allegation, he was shortly honoured as Best Governor of the Year by Telegraph Newspaper.
New Inspector General of Police
We call on the new Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to be non-partisan, fair and neutral and not work for a particular party but for the interest of Nigerians. We also urge the new IGP to ensure that anyone who poses a threat to peace, and politicians who engage in activities that can trigger violence, be dealt with without fear of favour.
➢Our security agencies and personnel should be equipped to defend the nation and porous borders that allow insurgents from neighbouring countries to infiltrate our country and cause mayhem.
➢There should be adequate transparency in the procurement of military equipment as necessary.
➢There should be a ban on the pillage of national resources that is called “Security Vote.”
➢The electoral processes at the federal and sub-national level need to be free of political manipulation. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must exercise its independence and capacity to sanction breaches of the provisions of the National Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.
➢Strict supervision and effective sanctioning are needed in conjunction with the pressure from the ‘grass-root’ for respectable candidates with high personal integrity and moral standing.
➢We call on all political parties to strictly adhere to the rule of law and respect for press freedom and human rights in their political dealings as the nation courses towards general elections in February.
➢We call on journalists and the media to be responsible within the rule of law and avoid acts that could undermine the peace and security of the nation.
➢We call on the military to desist from excessive show of force to intimidate civilians whenever it feels aggrieved. The laws of Nigeria have made adequate provisions for how such should be addressed and the military should not act outside of these laws.
➢We call for adequate oversight activities by relevant legislative committees in the National Assembly on the conduct of military agents across the country.
➢We call on the president to reveal the findings of the Presidential Investigation Panel he established in 2017 to investigate allegations of non-compliance with human rights obligations and Rules of Engagement by the Nigerian Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgency.
➢We call on the National Assembly and anti-corruption agencies to live up to the expectations and trust placed in them by Nigerians in ensuring perpetrators of corrupt practice are brought to book, while guaranteeing adequate protection for whistle-blowing effort through enabling policies implementation and transition into legislation.
➢We call on well-meaning Nigerians to support and sustain the work of CSOs to enhance the rule of law, social equity and justice.
➢The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) should be proactive by following up on the Suspicious Transactions Reports which banks and financial providers flag as potential money laundering cases.
In conclusion, CSOs remain committed to monitoring the government at all levels to ensure that the government carries out their oversight functions and fulfils their promises to the citizens of our great country.
- Civil Society Legislative Advocacy centre (CISLAC)
- Say No Campaign (SNC)
- Centre for Information Technology and Democracy (CITAD)
- Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
- Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
- African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
- State of the Union (SOTU)
- Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA)
- Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE)
- Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP)
- Protest to Power