Press Releases

Civil society groups say Nigeria is on the brinks

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For immediate release

Saturday, 29, May, 2021

Joint Statement by a Coalition of CSOs on the State of the Country* The situation in Nigeria has never been as tragic before as it is today.

We are seriously concerned about the country’s speedy slide into anarchy, government’s total disconnection from the people and its glaring incompetence in the face of ravaging insecurity which has enveloped the land.

Governance is in total abeyance and there is total loss of faith and hope in the country.

The challenges can be summarised as:

  • Rising insecurity due to failure of government to protect people from attacks by non-state actors
  • Eroded values system that allows corruption and impunity to fester
  • Mismanagement of the economy and widening of inequalities
  • Non-existent or inefficient public infrastructure impacting on provision of basic social services
  • Poor conflict resolution and lack of mitigation strategies
  • Violent repressive tactics by state security agents fueling an atmosphere of fear
  • Human Rights violations and abuses rife in many parts of the country with no effective remedy for victims and their families

Terrorist groups, bandits and armed herders have taken over the land, on the prowl and enjoying a free reign in virtually every state, kidnapping, committing rape, attacking communities, killing people and destroying farm lands without government or security intervention. Government has failed to protect the people from criminality and has failed to arrest and prosecute a single criminal.

It is either that government has no clue what to do or it is complicit. The bottom line is that it has failed to tackle insecurity, violence and crime.

Corruption by high level government officials continue unabated under a regime that campaigned and came to power with the mantra of anti- corruption without any action taken against any of the officials of government at all levels and tiers involved in high level corruption.

The bad economy which it also promised to revamp has remained in doldrums and almost permanently in recession – six years in the saddle.

Unemployment, underemployment and poverty remain very high, fuelling crime.

Infrastructure, especially power, housing and transportation and basic amenities including health and education remain in a state of disrepair and dysfunctionality

Bigotry, nepotism, injustices and divisive government policies and actions have raised the tempo of self-determination and separatist agitations and exacerbated calls for restructuring.

The recent resolutions by Southerner governors, among other things, calling for restructuring based on fiscal federalism and ban on open grazing- and the federal government’s dismissive response shows the federal government’s arrogant posture and tacit support for the bandits, its insensitivity and unreadiness to listen to the feelings and concerns of a large section of the country’s population; and its adamant refusal to right historical wrongs.

On a daily basis, armed herdsmen freely attack communities, raping women, killing people – young and old -, destroying farm lands and rendering people into internally displaced persons- in their own country- without any government or security intervention. While government fails to protect communities from the menaces of armed herdsmen, there are many instances- as we have seen in Kaduna State- where security forces were set against the same communities when they fought back or protested against herdsmen attacks and failure of the state to protect them

Bandits regularly kidnap school children and students of tertiary institutions in large scale are are not arrested and prosecuted, instead, government and its agents negotiate with them, and pay them ransom thereby encouraging and rewarding criminality

Government’s brute force approach to seperatist agitations has radicalised otherwise peaceful and unarmed groups into resorting to armed violence

The continuing, increasing and condemnable coordinated attacks on Police Stations especially in the South and particularly in Imo State is believed to be a grand diabolical scheme to decimate or weaken security agencies preparatory to the implementation of a more sinister agenda by the sponsors of the bandits

Similar despicable attacks on INEC offices is a threat to the 2023 elections but more imminently a threat to the November 2021 Anambra State governorship election

The upsurge in attacks in the South appears to have been pre-planned. During the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 and despite the ban on interstate movements, vehicles carrying men and arms were freely transported across security checkpoints along the highways leading to the south. This was in clear connivance with the security personnel manning those checkpoints.

There has been no official explanation yet for the arms- laden truck that fell along Awka road, Anambra State some weeks ago spilling its contents. No words about the source and destination of the arms and those behind the movement of the arms.

Government attacks on the media and free speech and illegal bans on the exercise of the constitutional freedoms of expression, assembly and movement are shrinking the civic space

The Unprofessional and Dangerous Directives by the Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba

We are more urgently concerned by the Inspector General of Police’s directive to police officers to enforce the President’s unconstitutional shoot at sight order and his further explicit directive that they should go after IPOB members and kill them. He also expressly asked them to ignore the rules of engagement- including observing the principle of proportionality in the use of force and firearms, with assurances that nothing will happen to them if they abuse human rights.

Following the said IGP’s reckless, unprofessional and dangerous directive, the police in Imo State have gone all out on indiscriminate mass raids, arresting, parading and killing people labelling them IPOB without evidence. We have received disturbing reports about invasion of markets and other public places by police officers who engage in sporadic shooting, indiscriminate arrest of young men some of whom are stabbed with daggers and taking away in police vehicles to undisclosed destinations

This brute force approach to tackling insecurity has resulted to heavy civilian casualties as we saw earlier this week in Imo State where innocent citizens were shot dead by security agencies who arrived about half an hour after hoodlums had attacked a police station in Orji, Owerri and disappeared.

No less than three persons including a young man and two women- one of whom was a petty trader- were shot dead by security forces who arrived and started shooting sporadically and teargassed the whole area.

Five young men were arrested and paraded without evidence that they were involved in the attack.

Raids and indiscriminate mass arrests of no less than 107 persons from various locations in Owerri have also been reported and kangaroo mass trials conducted in a police car park and other locations outside the court room based on frivolous charges and remanded in prison thereby complicating the problem of prison congestion.

This brutal and malicious policing approach is a direct outcome of the IGP’s directive to police officers to ignore the rules of engagement and to commit egregious human rights violation which has actually led to the harvest of egregious human rights violation including mass arrests and parading of arrested persons without evidence and extrajudicial killings. We view this with great seriousness.

The Nigeria Police has a Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement. The general guidelines to the document requires that in the discharge of their roles, members of security agencies will ensure observance of and be guided by extant laws, rules and regulations as well as standard norms and practices among which are fundamental rights in accordance with the constitution, various regulations and orders, ECOWAS protocol on good governance and democracy, African charter on human and people’s rights, UN code of Conduct for law enforcement officials, UN basic principles on the use of force and fire arms by law enforcement officials, among others. The rules of engagement also prioritises the principle of minimum force and proportionality in the use of force. We are therefore appalled that the IGP could discard the NPF’s Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement signed up to by the NPF and direct police officers to act in blatant violation of the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement.

As observed by A. H Abilagbo in ‘The Impact of Indiscriminate Use of Firearms and the Rules of Engagement in the Nigeria Police Force’

‘The growing concern by generality of the Nigerian public over the incidence of abuse of firearms by the security agencies, especially, the Nigerian Police, has demonstrated an absence of a comprehensive crime control strategy in the country. The damaging effect of this odious situation is hardly acknowledged by the government, let alone taking deliberate steps to put an end to it. Police officers need to legitimately carry firearms to incapacitate dangerous armed criminals, and are constitutionally empowered to use force during their daily tasks. However, the almost daily occurrence of “extra judicial killings,” “accidental discharge,” etc. causing fatal harms on innocent citizens, have now become a source of serious security and safety concerns in the country. The utter disregards of rules of engagements with impunity by the police not only question the ability of the government to protect its citizens but also undermine its credibility. Even though government has frequently appointed committees to advise it on the way forward, regrettably, the reports of such committees are never implemented’.

Conclusion

Killing innocent citizens would not be the appropriate answer to the menace of insecurity, violence and criminality in any state. How come only innocent citizens are killed all the time and always after the actual criminals have carried out their dastardly operations and disappeared?

OUR CALLS

1. *DECLINE CONFIRMATION OF USMAN ALKALI BABA AS INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE* : Based on the Acting IGP's reckless and dangerous utterances and directives to police officers to disregard the Code of conduct and rules of engagement, we hereby convey our opposition to his confirmation as substantive IGP. We call on the Police Council and the Senate to, in the public interest, muster the courage to decline confirmation of Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba as substantive IGP. He is unfit and unsuitable to be appointed to head a country's lead security agency. He is indeed a threat to public safety and security.

2. *INVESTIGATE  ARREST OF FIVE PERSONS IN OWERRI AFTER ORJI ATTACK:* We call for an independent investigation into the allegation that the five men arrested at Orji, Owerri, Imo State after the criminals had operated and disappeared are members of IPOB. The police must present credible evidence that they are member of IPOB involved in any legally recognisable crime or immediately free them with apologies

3. *INVESTIGATE 107 ARRESTS* : We call for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of no less than 107 residents of Owerri Imo State who were also alleged to be IPOB members and arraigned on the preposterous allegation of attempts to overthrow President Buhari and Governor Hope Uzodinma.

4. *INVESTIGATE PATTERNS OF ARRESTS AND KILLINGS BY THE POLICE IN OWERRI* : We also call for Investigations into all other killings in Imo State by both the military and police and an end to predatory policing tactics.

*
5. CONVENE STAKEHOLDER DIALOGUES :* Government should prioritise dialogue and should immediately liaise with civil society, traditional, religious and community leaders and leaders of town unions and socio-political and cultural organisations as well as leaders of aggrieved groups to convene a joint stakeholders dialogues in the States and zones to discuss, design and implement a workable solutions to insecurity.

6. *PRESIDENT BUHARI SHOULD LEAD OR RISK IMPEACHMENT* :

Since the primary purpose of government is welfare and security,

  • Buhari should step up, provide leadership, restore order, promote justice and inclusive government which equally benefits all sections of the country or he should step aside by resigning.
    -The National Assembly as the People’s representatives should review current situation in the country and call on the Executive to respect the rule of law and the human rights of every person. They should also impress on the President as the Head of government to take decisive steps to restore order and protect human rights and if found wanting, take the step to impeach him.

Signed:

  1. Okechukwu Nwanguma for RULAAC
  2. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri for Spaces for Change
  3. Chido Onuma for African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
  4. Mazi Chima Amadi for Centre for Transparency Advocacy
  5. Saviour Akpan Esq for COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding
  6. Hon. Ohams Chinedu G for Orlu Security Peace Holders Initiative
  7. Emeka Nwanevu, for Initiative for Public Safety, Security and Educational Development in Nigeria
  8. Lilian Ezenwa for Public Enlightenment Projects (PEP)
  9. James Ugochukwu for African Centre for Entrepreneurship and Information Development -ACEIDEV
  10. Gbenga Soloki for Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence -CAIDOV
  11. Godwin Kingsley for World Impact Development Foundation (WIDEF)
  12. Samuel Akpologun for Ace & Vanguard Legal Practitioners*
  13. ABDURRAHMAN AKINDELE AYUBA for Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication ( CCEPE)
  14. Anthony Opara- The Difference Newspapers
  15. Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor Executive Director
    Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD
  16. Ogechi Ikeh
    Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights CCIDESOR
  17. Uzoma Aneto for Nde Oduko Foundation
  18. Justine Ijeomah (Executive Director) Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF )

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