From Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Comrade Ibrahim Waiya is the President of a coalition of Civil Society Forum in Kano State. A consummate administrator reputed for his courage in tackling the multi- faceted problems confronting the society. In this interview, he expresses disgust at the failure of the Kano State Government to set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into the alleged cases of brutality of the personnel of the Nigeria Police in the state. He bares his mind on various issues.
Recently, you were reported to have tasked the state governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to set up a Commission of Inquiry in the state in line with the directive of the Federal Government in the wake of the #ENDSARS# protest across the country. What informed your call?
Actually, our call is as a result of what you have just said. The Federal Government had directed all the states to set up these commissions of Inquiry to look into the alleged cases of police brutality in their states. This was considered one of the strategies to douse the situation that was raging in the country as at that time. If you remember, there were a lot of agitations across the country. Some weeks back, a lot of Nigerians had reservations about the activities of the tactical team of the Police, SARS. Since then, many states have established their own Commissions of Inquiry; they have since started receiving complaints, concerns and petitions from the members of the public regarding experiences suffered in the hands of the police unit. But Kano State has not complied. We feel that Kano State, is one of the strategic states in the country. We feel that Kano is a mini- Nigeria, because it consists of people of different nationalities and ethnic groups and we feel that Kano is virtually a volatile state when it comes to issues of national interest. It is very sensitive to national issues, sensitive to issues that have to do with peace and national security. So, we feel that it is important that the state government follows because there were also weighty allegations against the SARS in this state, even though these accusations were not really very prominent and they were not known to the public. Yet, there were concerns of police brutality, especially within the business community of the state
Why do you think that the state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is reluctant to set up the Commission of Inquiry in the state? Is it that he is satisfied that we don’t need it in Kano or he is okay with the relationship between the police and the people of the state?
Actually, that is what we have been wondering about too. Why is he yet to set a commission even when states like Kastina and the rest of our neighbours have initiated theirs. I remember very well that I was part of several meetings that the governor called as soon at the protest started and on these several notes, one of the most remarkable contributions recommended to the governor was to set up a Commission of Inquiry. Two, apart from the meeting of ethnic nationalities that I attended, there was also a meeting that was directly organized for the members of the Civil Society organization in the state. The state governor decided to have a meeting with the members of the Civil Society Groups and although I was not there, I sent our people. I sent about 50 of them and the same issue was discussed and the same resolution was presented to the governor- that there is a need to raise a Commission of Inquiry into the alleged cases of police brutality in the state. Even though we must acknowledged that the state government has a right to feel reluctant or to feel that we don’t need that simply because there were no reported cases of police brutality and human right abuses in the state. Notwithstanding, what we are saying to the governor is that this is a national issue and if others are doing it, then we we have to do same. And for us, this is one of the ways we can ascertain whether there were actually or there were no cases of these allegations in the state during the period under review.
You just said that Kano State is a very sensitive and volatile state. Don’t you think that going to unearth some past misdeeds is likely to open old wounds, enliven forgotten pains and heat up the polity?
Actually, it is not going to; a Commission of Inquiry is only going to give citizens the right to express their feelings or to voice out their feelings. You need to provide a platform for citizens to speak. Most of the times, some of the biggest mistakes that our leaders in government make is trying to avoid problems. They think that avoiding problems is another way of solving the problems They run away from problems. But time and time again, events have proved them wrong. Going away from a problem is not the solution to the problem. The most important thing all the time is that you need to explore avenues for addressing the problems once and for all. And that has to come with a permanent solution. A permanent solution is going to come through citizens engagement, which would give the people to feel that yes they are part and parcel of the whole process of getting at the solution.
There are arguments that the #ENDSARS# protest has a lot to do with the general dissatisfaction of Nigerians with the present administration, not just about the police and their alleged brutality as many would think. What is your take?
I really agree with the proposition that the protest was beyond the issue of the police. #ENDSARS# was just an excuse. I really agree that the protest was an opportunity for many Nigerians to demonstrate their reservations and their own agitations against the system. Nigerians are agitated against the political leadership; some are agitated against the economic policies; some are agitated against issue of co existence, issue of restructuring and issue of resources control and so on, and that is why we said running away from the problems would not solve the problems.You would have to deal with the problems squarely so as to find a lasting solution to them. Most times the government fails to engage the citizenry and that is what makes most of the policies unpopular and eventually rejected by the citizens. If we can just hear the citizens’ cres, that would give the government a picture of the silent concerns of the people they govern and what they feel.
The Federal Government has just increased the prices of petrol and the hike in electricity tariff that was suspended has been reinstated, despite public outcry. How do you see the insensitivity to the cries of Nigerians?
If you have been following the trend in Kano, even during the last increases of the pump prices of fuel and electricity in the country, we complained bitterly about them. We complained, not just because we do not want to be on the side of the government – we believe that the removal of subsidy is critical towards improving the economy- but we said that the time was ill and wrong. It was so ill- timed. Nigerians just came out of the lockdown of COVID-19 and there are still many that are haunted by the lockdown even as at date. A lot of people, Nigerians, have really crashed economically and a lot of people are just trying to cope and to have come up with these policies at this crucial time is well out of it, so unfortunate. Even within the private and cooperate sector, the loss is terrible. And to make matters worst, there has been no reasonable package to salvage the economic disaster, just like what happened in some other parts of the world. We have seen in many countries where there were serious and genuine interventions by their governments to mediate the negative impacts of the lockdown on private sector so that private businesses do not come down because in the final analysis, they provide a lot of jobs for the teeming populace of these countries. It is unfortunate that at a time that Nigerians are struggling to regain their lost grounds, the Federal Government is coming up with these policies that would surely hurt the poor the more. This is quite insensitive. This is really anti- people.
What is your reaction to the increasing debt profile of the Federal Government?
It is unfortunate. It is unexpected. We do not really expect this kind of thing to happen under the present administration. The last time I heard the Minister of Finance release the debt profile of Nigeria, it was indeed pathetic because this is a government that was born out of a lot of expectations. They promised to do a lot and Nigerians believed them. They promised Nigerians a lot of economic package. If you remember, they promised Nigerians three critical packages, namely economic recovery, anti- corruption and security. But if you really look at the economy of Nigeria today, you will certainly agree that we are going backwards and certainly not forward. There are a lot of challenges today. Statistics has just revealed that a lot of Nigerians have lost their jobs under the present administration; there is an increase in inflation, there is also unemployment and actually these things are not speaking well about where we are. All the time, securing loans, is not actually the solution to our economic challenges. The Nigerian government must begin to think inward about policies and steps that could help us better our opportunities rather than go for loans that would be very difficult for the future generations of Nigerians to repay.
May we know a bit about your organization, Kano Civil Society Forum. Sometimes we read that they are made of 190 Civil Society Organizations in the state and at other times, we read you are made up of about 360 Civil Society Organizations.
Actually, Kano Civil Society Forum is a forum of all the Civil Society Organizations operating in the state and our members are drawn from different civil society groups in the state. We have different kinds of engagements or areas of concern and that is why we all decided to come together to form a single body. Some of our members are operating in the health sector, in education, in good governance, in girl -child, in anti- corruption; some are in HIV and in education of people with disabilities and so on. We are that large. But we have a common voice.