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Nigeria in a New Decade: A Troubling State of Affairs

Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Dear Sir,

Two weeks ago, over 200 civil society organisations, representing a cross-section of Nigerians that have played various roles in Nigeria’s journey to civil rule, gave the Buhari administration 14 days to honor five demands.

The demands were against the backdrop of the crackdown on the freedom of the press; attack on the judiciary, proposed bills to curb dissent and a general environment of shrinking civic space, of which the recent actions of our security agencies are just an example. The world was also marking Human Rights Day at the time.

The five demands were as follows:

  1. President Muhammadu Buhari to show accountability as President and Commander-in-Chief and address the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights.
  2. The release of all illegally detained persons by the SSS as revealed by Amnesty, Premium Times & Punch Newspapers in recent months.
  3. That the government obey all outstanding court orders.
  4. An investigation of the officers who violated protocol and the circumstances leading to Omoyele Sowore’s 2nd arrest.
  5. The unconditional release of Omoyele Sowore per his bail terms.

By the second day of the ultimatum, the Attorney General of the Federation had called for an investigation into what happened in court on December 6th that led to Sowore’s second arrest. Subsequently, the House of Representatives and the Senate also called for an investigation with the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters calling for a hearing with stakeholders.

However, there are still four other demands that have not been honored and despite the call to government both within and outside Nigeria, the Buhari administration has remained insensitive to the cries of Nigerians. The government’s stance has caused local and international media to reference the dark days of military rule in Nigeria with Punch Newspapers choosing to call the administration a ‘regime’ and refer to Mr President by his military title, Major-General. Ironically, court orders were obeyed when he was a military ruler.

Persistent human rights violations and restrictions on the civic space by the government of President Buhari and several state governors betray past efforts to push for human rights improvements for the Nigerian people. The executive arm of government at the federal and state levels are ignoring the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights obligations and commitments. By doing so, they betray the people of Nigeria and their constitutional oaths of office. We urge Nigerian authorities to reverse course and end the growing assault on human rights.

Nigerian leadership shows no sign of stopping its oppression of the rights and freedoms of Nigerians. Nigeria continues to be governed by a deeply entrenched repressive legal framework, which is aggravated by recurring waves of massive repression against those who seek to claim their human rights. Peaceful demonstrators, non-governmental organizations, political opponents, human rights activists and independent media workers continue to be the targets of systematic harassment and intimidation by the Federal Government and several state governors.

We will continue to mobilise Nigerians to hold their leaders to account and speak truth to power. The power is in the hands of citizens as the Office of the Citizen is the highest office in the land. Government must serve the people, not the people enslaved to an insensitive government. We will not stay silent! We will come together and stand together, in solidarity because all Nigerians have a right to participate in decisions that impact their lives.

Mr Ojukwu, we are here today because the Mandate of NHRC makes you the face of the nation regarding human rights. May we remind you that your role requires you to:

Deal with all matters relating to the promotion and protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international and regional instruments on human rights to which Nigeria is a party.

As such, we ask that you remind President Buhari that there are norms that a democratic system of government and (1) freedom of speech; (2) freedom of the press; and (3) the rule of law are key components.

Activities are slowing down as we mark Christmas and the New Year. Nevertheless, we are asking Nigerians to make the most of their holidays as the start of the new decade will be demanding for all of us if the Buhari administration continues to violate human rights and undermine the rule of law.

In closing, we leave you with the words of Nobel Laureate and freedom fighter, Wole Soyinka, who clearly reminds us all that government disobedience to the rule of law will call for civil disobedience.

“May I remind this government that disobedience calls to disobedience, and that disobedience of the orders of the constitutional repository of the moral authority of arbitration – the judiciary – can only lead eventually to a people’s disregard of the authority of other arms of civil society, a state of desperation that is known, recognized and accepted as– civil disobedience.

It is so obvious – state disobedience leads eventually to civil disobedience, piecemeal or through a collective withdrawal of recognition of other structures of authority. That way leads to chaos but – who set it in motion? As is often the case, the state, unquestionably. Such a state bears full responsibility for the ensuing social condition known as anomie.”

– Wole Soyinka

If you have any questions, please contact to ‘Yemi Adamolekun – 08082192510

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

OsaiOjigho, Amnesty International (Nigeria)

Osagie Obayuwana, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR)
Idayat Hassan, Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD)
Auwal Musa, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)

Deji Adeyanju, Concerned Nigerians
‘Yemi Adamolekun, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria)
Lanre Suraj, HEDA & People’s Alternative Front

Megan Chapman, Justice & Empowerment Initiatiave
Kola Ogundare, Socio-Economic Right And Accountability Project (SERAP)

JuwonSanyaolu, Take it Back Movement

Jaye Gaskia, Take Back Nigeria (TBN)
BiolaAkiyode-Afolabi, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) & Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)


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