Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Fifty one civil society organizations on Tuesday condemned what they called a massive violation of the rights of Nigerian citizens, including the right to protest, concerted attacks of media organisations, press freedom and civil society organisations.
They said citizens were hopeful after the 2019 general elections that the Buhari administration would with renewed vigour address the myriad of problems bedeviling the country, ranging from intensification of insecurity, the deepening of corruption, growing poverty and unemployment as well as flagrant and frequent disrespect of the rule of law.
The CSOs opined that Nigerians believed that the Buhari administration, which received the mandate for another four-year term, would reciprocate the people’s goodwill and trust and commit itself to expand the civic space and facilitating citizen’s engagement in an expanding democratic space.
They listed some of their concerns to include media harassment and intimidation.
According to the CSOs:
“The Nigerian mass media has become a regular focus of illegal attacks by the security agencies. Unlawful arrest and detention of journalists have become a growing phenomenon, and our great tradition of a free press and freedom of expression is under severe stress.
“Constant Harassment of Human Rights and Anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations: The Nigeria state is currently engaged in continuous attacks on human rights and anti-corruption civil society organisations and activists in the country.
“An instance is the unfair attack on Amnesty International Nigeria by some security agencies and unscrupulous agents using hoodlums and miscreants threatening Amnesty International Nigeria to vacate the country. Trying to force a legal organisation that has all Nigeria citizens to vacate and leave the country without an attempt by security agencies to protect their rights is unacceptable.
“The Unlawful ban on protest: We are gravely concerned over the unlawful statement issued by the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force threatening to prosecute the organisers of the peaceful rallies in Nigeria. There are existing provisions of law and judicial authorities recognising the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to non-violently convene and participate in rallies, demonstration and protest marches. Fundamentally, the provision of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended that “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons…” is sacrosanct and must be protected.”
The activists called for an end to the arbitrary misuse of power against citizens engaged in non-violent protests and demonstration to express their views.
“We demand immediate release of all activists who are in detention for exercising their fundamental rights.
“We call on security agencies and government officials to ensure total compliance to the rule of law as provided for in our legal system.
“We also call on government to respect and allow the flourishing of civil space for meaningful contribution to democratic governance in Nigeria.
“We further call on government to be more accountable and responsive to the citizenry they were elected to serve for good governance.”
The statement was signed by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT), Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre), Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Partners for West Africa – Nigeria, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Falana Falana Chambers.
Others include: CLEEN Foundation, International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC), Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Partners on Electoral Reform, State of the Union (SOTU), African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), National Procurement Watch Platform, Say NO Campaign—Nigeria and Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED), Social Action, International Press Centre, WANGONET, Community Action for Popular Participation, Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP), Global Rights, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE) and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Tax Justice Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, Women In Nigeria, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Centre for Social Justice, HURIDAC, Protest to Power, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria(NOPRIN Foundation), Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and Women Advocate Research And Documentation Centre, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative(WRAPA), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Sesor Empowerment Foundation, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Echoes of Women in Africa Initiatives (ECOWA), Hadis Foundation, Education As a Vaccine Against Women, Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, Nigerian Feminist Forum, Alliances for Africa and Space for Change.