Tag Archives: Nigeria



Position of Lawyers Alert

Lawyers Alert condemns in the strongest terms the use of live ammunition on protesters who were only armed with national flags and the national anthem and the consequent loss of lives of innocent and defenseless Nigerians in their prime. No lawful and democratic society condones extrajudicial killings in any form. Every person has a right to live and such a right cannot be taken away by anyone except in accordance with the law.

Lawyers Alert acknowledges the Constitutional Rights of citizens to embark on peaceful protests and it is in this light that we also strongly condemn the use of military personnel under any guise to quell protests within the civic space. The result can only be and has been fatalities.

We also condemn the degeneration of the protest into rioting. In Abuja alone, no fewer than 50 vehicles were razed. The same goes for Lagos where Media Houses, a Traditional Ruler’s Palace, Police Stations, a warehouse, and shopping malls were vandalized and in some instances burned. A number of Police Officers were also lynched. In Edo, there was the incident of a jailbreak where inmates were set free while Kano and Jos witnessed misguided reprisal attacks with a number of churches burned.
We acknowledge the rights of the citizenry to move freely and own property. These are fundamental rights that are inalienable.

We note the genesis of the unfortunate happenings. Citizens, mainly the Youth commenced protests owing to killings and various human rights abuses against them by the men of the Police Force, particularly the special unit of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. Their demands were the disbandment of SARS, identification and sanctioning of rogue officers, the release of the illegally detained, and compensation to victims or their families amongst others.

The government did yield to these requests by disbanding SARS, setting up
Judicial Panels of Inquiry, and calling for negotiations. Owing to previous unkept promises by the government and the consequent lack of trust, youths shunned these measures, and continued the protest, leading to the present situation.

In light of the foregoing, Lawyers Alert recommends the following:

▪ The Federal Government should keep open its earlier invitation to the
Protesters to the negotiation table. The Protesters should accept the
government invitation to dialogue towards the realization of the demands
of the protesters and suspend the protests. Lawyers Alert recognizes the
lack of trust for government promises by the youth, which is justifiable
given past experiences. We however advise that timelines be set for the
delivery of every demand with responsible agency clearly defined. There is
no better time to do this than now.

▪ The National Assembly should conduct a hearing/investigation into what
transpired at the Lekki toll gate on 20/10/2020 that led to the loss of lives
owing to killings allegedly carried out by soldiers. This hearing should
unravel questions like who ordered soldiers to Lekki Toll Gate, the actual
number of lives lost, the identity of victims, and comprehensive sanctions
of any individual directly or indirectly connected to the incident.

▪ Lawyers Alert urges groups and persons to approach the Judicial Panels
of Inquiry to lay their grievance towards the identification of culpable SARS
officers for appropriate sanctions and the compensation of victims.

▪ The government should embark on comprehensive reform of the police,
with emphasis on oversight functions, tethering oversight to citizens
groups, the National Assembly, Internal Police oversight, the National
Human Rights Commission, and most importantly, the Police Service
Commission which is the constitutional body with the mandate of

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Lawyers Alert


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World Humanitarian Day: Nourishing the World with a Milk of Human Kindness

By Sunday Adaji Esq.












Love, they say, makes the world to go round. Imagine a world devoid of charities, a world where everyone is to himself. Such a world would be a hell. The extent of reliefs, comfort, support, peace and the breath of fresh air that we enjoy today is as a result of the humanitarian efforts of persons and organisations who take it upon themselves to be their “brothers keepers.” Thanks a million to charities, to civil society organisations, (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBO) and individuals who are driven by passion to nourish the world with a milk of human kindness. This is the essence of the World Humanitarian Day, and it is on this note that Lawyers Alert wishes you a Happy World Humanitarian Day. The World Humanitarian Day is celebrated on the 19th of August every year and it is a day set aside by the United Nations to honour humanitarian efforts worldwide and propagating the idea of supporting people in crisis.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) states on its website, “World Humanitarian Day 2019 is set to celebrate Women humanitarians and their undying contribution in making the world a better place.”

In conflict situations, in times of disasters and in times of gross human rights violations, women are among the most vulnerable persons that are worse hit. But it is gratifying to note that women are also among those who are working tirelessly to bring succour to the poor, the destitute and to internally displaced persons (IDP).











Nigeria is presently bedeviled with insecurity. The North East of Nigeria is under constant attack by Boko Haram and ISWA (Islamic State of West Africa), as a result of which millions of Nigerians are internally displaced. The North Central part of Nigeria is riddled with herdsmen-farmers clash, as a result of which thousands of Nigerians are displaced. There are also pockets of conflicts in other parts of the country which have negatively affected vulnerable persons. We cannot lose sight of the flood and kidnapping ravaging the country presently.











Over 13 million children are out of school, many of them are in the streets asking for alms. We have the poor, the destitute, the jobless and victims of human rights violation in our midst. All these go to show that there is a lot to be done. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government is doing the best it can to grapple with the situation, but the federal government cannot do it alone. It takes the efforts and contribution of all and sundry to bring succour to millions of Nigerians who are negatively affected by conflicts and disasters in the country.

Lawyers Alert and indeed hundreds of other CSOs are doing the best they can to alleviate the sufferings of the vulnerable groups in our midst. They may still be far from putting an end to the plights of vulnerable groups, but one fact we cannot lose sight of is: THE PLIGHT OF THE VULNERABLE GROUPS WOULD HAVE BEEN WORST IF THERE WERE NO HUMANITARIAN RELIEFS FROM THE CSOs.

Lawyers Alert joins other CSOs, CBOs, the Federal Government, and government agencies, the ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations to celebrate women humanitarians who have contributed and who are contributing to make the world a better place to live. To this end, Lawyers Alert acknowledges the humanitarian efforts of Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Mary Slessor, Florence Nightingale, Wangari Maathai, and others too numerous to mention.











Dear reader, there is much work to do in the humanitarian field. Government cannot do it alone, Lawyers Alert cannot do it alone, CSOs cannot do it alone. Get up, roll up your sleeves and join these armies of humanitarian persons to work and make the world a better place to live. This is the essence of the World Humanitarian Day.

Once again, Lawyers Alert wishes you a Happy World Humanitarian Day.



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Dated 12Th June 2018.

The problem of gender-based violence (GBV) is an age-long problem in our communities which has led to loss of lives, emotional disorder, psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses.  These violations happen more in rural areas than the urban areas due to poor access to information, inadequate exposure and anti-human rights cultural practices, leading to an anti-social environment for women and children. Market women who ordinarily carry the burden for over 70% of the Nigerian families and are the economic main- stay of most homes suffer the most. It shows in several ways and not necessarily violent – owing to Market women often non awareness of this, it gradually ebb their sense of dignity and consequent inability to raise citizens who fully appreciate their beings in our homes.

Lawyers Alert as a human rights Organization has identified the gap which has put the lives of many women at the risk of suffering violations and other human rights abuses, and is now engaging market women associations across the country to sensitize them on Gender based violence.

The first of this training held with the kabusa market women – Abuja sorboses. The training which started at about 2:30 PM with over fourty women in attendance was held at the market square and it started with an opening prayer by a delegate of the Market Women Leader, after which a welcome address was taken by the Market Women Leader herself. All the participants briefly introduced themselves. Mr. Yemi Agoro took time to introduce Lawyers Alert as an Organization to the women and also talked about the Objectives of the meeting. Ellen Onugha who is our legal officer took time to talk about legal literacy and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Mr Yemi Agoro and Elvis Torkuma took few minutes to summarize everything in local English in other for the women to understand it better. After the session on legal literacy and Sexual reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we gave room for comments and questions. The women were excited with our services and many threw questions which we were able to respond to with the rights answers.

One woman stood up and said, she would take it upon herself to educate those who were not present at the meeting. Another woman said initially she thought it was money we came to share to them but what she learnt from us is much more than money. After the feedback session, emphases were made on Lawyers Alert’s pro bono services, mediation, where and how they can access our free legal services and what to do when their rights are violated. This topic was even more exciting and overwhelming to them because even before we could finish this session, we had over six women reporting violations to us at the spot. It was a successful program because from their comments, questions, recommendations and openness to discuss their problems with us at the training ground, we could see that we exceeded their expectations.


In conclusion, we recommend more of this sensitization program for market women in other locations because many women do not know their rights and they do not know that these rights can be protected and enhanced. This will lead to more enlightened women in the society and reduction or total eradication of gender-based violence in Nigeria.


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The Nigeria proposed Non-Governmental Organisations’ Regulation Bill

By Sunday Adaji…Legal Officer, Lawyers Alert.

One of the most controversial Bills before the floor of the National Assembly (the law-making body of Nigeria) is the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Regulation Bill sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Umar Buba. The bill has been described in many quarters as the most audacious and dangerous bills to make its way into the legislature in recent times. It might be recalled that prior to its introduction, a similar NGO Bill was presented to the National Assembly and rejected. This time, the Bill has not only gained acceptance, it is already well on its way to being passed into law.

Provisions of the Bill

According to government, the bill is necessitated by an urgent desire to curb the excesses of shady NGOs which have not only fallen into a pattern of ripping-off donor agencies but are also further tarnishing Nigeria’s already well battered image in addition to quietly funding terror attacks in the country. Noble ideals for sure, so why the alarm?

Well for one thing, the bill proposes to establish a regulatory commission to be headed by an Executive Secretary who will be appointed by the President for a term of 5 years. There will be a 17-man Governing Board led by a Chairman, all of whom will also be appointed by the President. The organization will be imbued with powers to license all NGOs failing which they would not be allowed to function. Only this license will confer legality upon the entity, and not the Corporate Affairs Corporation, CAC,  as is currently the status quo. Said license will be reviewed every 2 years if legal status is to be maintained. The Board also has the power to withhold the issuance of this license as it deems fit without explanation.

For another thing, this regulatory commission will be domiciled within the Ministry of Interior and the Minister given the powers to direct the Board as he sees fit. All NGOs will be required to regularly submit financial reports and sources of funding to the board and also seek permission for how same should be expended and on what projects. Failure to comply will be considered a crime to be punished accordingly (up to 18 months in prison).

The Board will also have the responsibility of determining which foreign donors can be approached for assistance. NGOs will be expected not only to comply with these laws but also all national and foreign policies. This Board, having such wide-reaching powers, will however, itself, remain unaccountable. It will enjoy substantial immunity under law and no judgements can be enforced upon it save with the express permission of the Attorney General’s office.

These provisions can at best be described as draconian and at worst as inimical to the progress of the nation as a whole. Over time, as governance gradually weakened in Nigeria, NGOs, both international and local picked up the slack, filling in gaps that should ordinarily never have existed were government functioning as it should.

General Reactions

In an interview with Channels TV, (a leading television station in Nigeria) on September 23, 2017, Chris Akiri, a law practitioner, expressed shock at how the bill had insidiously made its way through the system, escaping the attention of people like himself and other CSO partners. In Akiri’s words, “This Bill which gives government the power to regulate NGOs is an over-government. Why must government come in to interfere when an NGO has its accountant and auditor? The Bill should not see the light of the day. It has a negative effect. It makes me to nearly vomit. Government is trying to government non-governmental organisations.”

Referring to some sections in the NGO Bill, Akiri explained that by empowering a commission known as NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS REGULATION COMMISSION OF NIGERIA to regulate the activities of NGOs, the government would essentially be usurping and or replicating the power of the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) to incorporate, monitor and regulate the activities of NGOs.

Another personality interviewed alongside Akiri, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was in agreement with Barrister Akiri. In his words, “I was invited to moderate in a discourse on the NGO Bill, but they concluded that I would not be fair-minded. They therefore used bodyguards to bar me from attending the meeting. Why should you have a discourse and bring in bodyguards?”

Expressing further his displeasure over the NGO Bill, Odinkalu said: “It is certifiable nonsense to label NGOs as ‘certified terrorists’. NGOs are doing great work for citizens. Churches and mosques will also be affected by the NGO Bill. Churches and mosques are the earliest NGOs in the world. Presently, we have so many laws that regulate NGOs. We have CAMA (Companies and Allied Matters Act), EFCC (Economic and Financial Crime Commission) Act, etc. Let us implement these laws properly.” Odinkalu also questioned the wisdom in enacting laws expropriating other agencies deeming them counter-productive in the long run.

Pointing out the political undertone behind the National Assembly’s plan to pass the NGO Bill into law, Odinkalu cited the case of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who, in a bid to make himself life president, decertified NGOs that opposed his decision.

Further interrogated about NGOs ability to regulate themselves without government interference, Odinakalu clarified his position thus: “I am not an advocate for NGOs. What I am saying is that we have so many laws that regulate NGOs. We should apply these laws properly.”

Lawyers Alert’s Stance

LAWYERS ALERT does not have a contrary view from those indicated above. We do agree and reiterate the fact that there are already agencies whose functions include monitoring the activities of NGOs. These agencies should be empowered to carry out their roles optimally and regulate NGOs while checking the excesses or illegalities perpetuated either by fake or spurious entities. Government agencies like CAC, EFCC and the FIRS (Federal Inland Revenue Service) are just some of the organizations charged with the task of monitoring and regulating NGO activity in the country.

Certainly, all sectors have challenges and bad eggs and the NGO sector is not immune to this. However, while readily admitting this problem, LA believes that where it is necessary to enquire and investigate the activities of NGOs, the government can do so within the ambit of the existing laws and the agencies concerned. If the government has any grouse with NGOs, it certainly is not as a result of a paucity of laws regulating them. The obvious gap rather, is that government has not fully maximised these laws to prevent criminal elements from taking advantage of loopholes in the system to exploit donor agencies.

CAMA for instance, empowers the CAC to enquire, investigate and prosecute businesses, companies and incorporated Trustees (NGOs) on allegations of any offence. Similarly, EFCC is empowered to inquire, investigate and prosecute any individual, business, company and or NGO regarding any alleged financial crimes or offences. So also, is the FIRS. All the government needs to is to empower these agencies in such a way that their bite is as bad as their bark.

If those already in existence are being under-utilised by government, is there any guarantee that any new law will be better implemented?


Should the NGO Bill eventually be enacted, what would be its impact on NGOs in Nigeria?

LAWYERS ALERT’s answer to this question is twofold:

  1. In the absence of any political undertone behind the National Assembly’s plan to pass the NGO Bill into law, the Bill might not make an impact. This is because, it is not the number of laws that matter but rather their effectiveness. What is crucial is the implementation of the already existing laws, not replicating them.
  2. If, on the other hand, there are political undertones behind the NGO Bill, as some have suggested, then the Bill will certainly have a negative impact on NGOs, especially human rights organisations in Nigeria. For instance, a party in power can capitalise on the provisos in the Bill to decertify NGOs that oppose its policies and activities. We all know that no genuine NGO will keep mute when a government in power infringes on the fundamental human rights of citizens.

Now, the Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission (the body empowered by the NGO Bill to regulate national and international NGOs) is conferred with the function of registering and maintaining the register of NGOs. It also has power to deregister any NGO. In fact, section 13 subsection (4) of the Bill states: “An organisation that is not registered under the Act cannot operate in the country nor benefit from the facilities made available by the government to organisations which are registered under this Act, but in special cases, the Minister, on the advice of the Board, may make concessions under conditions of emergency.” By this proviso, it is easy for a government in power to decertify and silence any NGO that opposes its activities.


LAWYERS ALERT is of the view that since there are already laws and agencies that are empowered to regulate NGOs, it is of no use enacting the NGO Regulatory Bill. It is not the number of laws a country has that matters but the implementation of same. Thousands of laws do not translate to implementation. If government cannot apply existing laws to regulate NGOs, it would still have difficulty doing so with any new laws.

On the other hand, if the NGO Bill must be passed into law, many of its provisos should be reviewed and amended. And in doing so, members of the public and NGOs in Nigeria, as well as other stakeholders, should be involved in the discourse on the NGO Bill. We believe this will be the case once the bill is scheduled for public hearing as reiterated by the Chairman of the House Committee on CSOs and Development Partners, Mr. Akpatason.

We hope that at the end of the day, the decision that will be taken will be one that will encourage the activities and growth of NGOs in Nigeria, considering the humanitarian services they are rendering to citizens.



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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Human Rights, Uncategorized


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Behind the arrest of a Nigerian ex-minister in London is a maturing Nigerian president

Written by Yinka Adegoke

For some Nigerians, there’s an inevitable feeling of deja-vu about their country’s former petroleum minister, Diezeani Allison-Madueke, being arrested in London on charges of money laundering.

That’s because in 1984, under the rule of current president Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian government tried and failed to abduct another former cabinet minister, Umaru Dikko, in London. Dikko had been accused of looting as much as $1 billion.

BBC World Service retold the caper in 2012:

On a summer’s day, Mr Dikko walked out of his front door in an upmarket neighbourhood of Bayswater in London. Within seconds he had been grabbed by two men and bundled into the back of a transit van.

“I remember the very violent way in which I was grabbed and hurled into a van, with a huge fellow sitting on my head – and the way in which they immediately put on me handcuffs and chains on my legs,” he told the BBC a year later.

Labelled “Nigeria’s most wanted man,” a plot was hatched to get both him and the money back.

The extraordinary plan was to kidnap Mr Dikko, drug him, stick him into a specially made crate and put him on a plane back to Nigeria – alive.

The messy incident involving ex-Mossad Israeli operatives, a brave British customs officer, and a major diplomatic fall-out with Britain, shows just how much the ruling Buhari has learned about the importance of soft power and diplomacy over the past three decades.

At that time, president Buhari was a 42-year-old, no-nonsense, rigid military dictator and strict disciplinarian

While Buhari has retained a strict, no-nonsense approach to leadership (one that is sometimes considered too slow), he also appears to have become a team player when it serves his interests—for example, at his inauguration in May when he talked about working with Nigeria’s border nations in the battle against the Islamic insurgents Boko Haram.

Now, Buhari is targeting Allison-Madueke as part of his election pledge to hold senior government officials accountable for corruption. Allison-Madueke is at the center of a missing $20 billion oil scandal; the country’s central bank, along with other independent investigations, have flagged the national oil company’s suspect accounting on her watch.

Whereas in the Dikko case Buhari ran into trouble with the British government for attempting to abduct a resident on its territory without warning, this time Buhari appears to have been working closing with British authorities before Allison-Madueke’s arrest; The raiding of her home in Abuja by local anti-graft agents appeared to be synced with her arrest in London.

And it was a newly formed International Corruption Unit of UK’s National Crime Agency that made the arrests of five people (including Allison-Madueke) connected to the case. Those arrests came after concerted efforts by Buhari to pressure Western governments and financial institutions to help combat money laundering and recover misappropriated funds from corrupt regimes, particularly in African countries.

Buhari’s government will need the continued support of international heavyweights like Britain and the US to prove his resolve in eradicating corruption in Nigeria. Unlike in 1984, he now has the democratic support of the majority of Nigerians, which Western governments like Britain can feel more comfortable standing behind.

the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief

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Posted by on October 5, 2015 in Governance


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Nigeria Rebukes UN High Commissioner For Pushing LGBT as Human Rights

NEW YORK, July 10 (C-Fam) Nigeria publicly chastised the UN human rights office for trampling on universally-agreed rights as it seeks to impose same sex marriage and outlaw commonly-held views on homosexuality. The sharp rebuke accused the UN officials of infringing on the right to democracy, religious freedom, and cultural standards that strengthen families.

The statement, delivered last week in Geneva, came in response to a report released last month by the UN human rights office. The report on discrimination and violence against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity criticizes laws protecting children from LGBT propaganda and condemns therapy to help people with unwanted sexual attractions. Expressing negative views on homosexuality contributes to violence, the report claims.

The UN report, which governments are free to ignore but which will be used to pressure them, also tells countries to legalize same sex marriage or unions, and provide benefits.

The majority of countries define marriage as the union of a man and woman. Nigeria strengthened its law in 2014.

Nigeria rebuked the UN officials for disrespecting the democratic process and endangering universally-agreed human rights.

Religious freedom and cultural rights are “fundamental parts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Nigeria stated. Countries have a “duty to ensure the family values, the religious values and the cultural values of its citizens are protected,” which are “the bedrock of the moral values of the individual.”

Nigeria’s marriage law “is intended to uphold and strengthen these values.”

Nigeria has the largest population in Africa and the majority of its 170 million citizens are Christian or Muslim.

The law “synchronizes” Nigeria’s culture, traditions, and two main religions, all of which reject “unreservedly, same sex marriage, homosexuality, lesbianism, gay and transgender attitudes.”

The Nigerians also said gay rights and orientation “will limit population” and “impose unintended consequences on the family as an institution.”

The UN human rights office ramped up its campaign to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) behavior in 2011, based on a Human Rights Council resolution expressing “grace concern” at violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The recent report concedes “data are patchy” on homicides. Persons identified as LGBT may be targeted by terrorist groups, and are victims of honor killings.

But the UN report strays from acts of violence to lump in expressing religious beliefs and counseling. It “condemns” reparative therapy to help with unwanted homosexual attractions, and describes statements on homosexuality by Catholic leaders as contributing to stigma and violence against adolescents and children.

Legalizing same sex marriage is not required, the report concedes, yet goes on to tell countries to recognize same sex unions. Countries should run public education campaignson sexual orientation and repeal policies that impact rights to health, education, work, housing and social security – providing an opening for attacks on faith-based organizations and individuals that decline to participate or assist in homosexual activities.

The UN human rights office is currently mired in scandal and rumors of corruption. Its officials are accused of mishandling an investigation of French soldiers sexually abusing African boys. Staffers are rumored to be cozy with officials from governments seeking to influence decisions inside the UN office.

Nordic countries funded the UN office’s campaign for LGBT rights, even as the UN human rights chief pled for funding to do its basic work.

Privately African and other delegates express immense frustration at what they see as an obsession with LGBT issues by UN personnel and some governments.

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Posted by on July 12, 2015 in Human Rights


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Disarray In Buhari’s Camp amid Saraki’s insubordination And Signs Of Things To Come!

by Frisky Larr

If there is anything that many observers agree upon, it is the fact that Muhammadu Buhari could have had a better start into his civilian presidency. Most disheartening and uninspiring was his inaugural speech, which left many people wondering what message he intended to send and why he made the choice to send such a message. The calculation seems obvious. The President simply sacrificed the all-important notion of toughness and popular reassurance at the altar of pacifying the team of the outgoing President, who has been locked in the fear of high-handed persecution. Muhammadu Buhari

Before the gaze of foreign dignitaries and backdoor facilitators of the smooth transition from the feeble and militant-backed former government, President Buhari seemed to have staked his cards also in reassuring the different interest groups observing the transition that he was out to calm the political temperature and not heighten tension any further. This was however, not the expectation of the teeming masses of Nigerian voters who yearned for change and had enough of the passive patronage of overbearing insiders by a weak government that was erroneously labeled as “Pacifist”. President Buhari’s inaugural speech simply failed in balancing the need to reassure those who fear persecution and the need to reassure his constituency that he was out to address their needs.

In the end, the meaningless message of belonging to all and belonging to none was the only substance that was left to be extracted from a long-drawn speech that many expected to be fiery and momentum-laden. Yet, it was easily skipped and quickly forgotten with the brave face of disappointment underscoring the need to keep heads high and simply move on. Many have been quietly nursing the uneasy trepidation deep within them ever since, hoping that Buhari may not end up a complete flop and a major disappointment.

After all, the President had all the opportunities in the world to reiterate his commitment to fighting corruption by revamping the anti-corruption agencies. He had all the chances in the world to reassure Nigerians on how he intends to work to strengthen regional military cooperation with neighboring countries to eradicate insurgency until the Nigerian Army is put back on its feet again to stand alone. He had all the chances in the world to reassure Nigerians, how he intends to clean the oil sector, enforce fiscal discipline in government institutions and carry party soldiers along in enforcing a new era of discipline in the national psyche, etc.. The President simply allowed this noble and golden opportunity of popular appeal to escape and slip through his fingers. It is an opportunity that was lost for good. It was his first own goal and an unforced error that barely stopped short of being an outright gaffe. It is a major blunder that he shares collectively with his handlers and perhaps, speechwriter(s).

Yet, as is typical of the honeymoon period, the need to stay calm and allow the President some time to understand the situation has so far dominated the reasoning of many critical observers, who are still waiting and watching out for just one decisive step from the President to reassure them that he is very much on course with his own agenda. So far, it has been to no avail! It does not matter though that the President was supposed to have understood the situation perfectly well even as a candidate with a blueprint to hit the ground running. On the contrary, signals keep filtering out, painting the picture of a President’s camp in utter disarray. From all indications, the President now seems trapped in the fangs of party interests, regional interests and the interests of scattered loyalists, who fought tooth and nail and against all odds, to ensure his electoral victory even if also in protection of inordinate selfish interests.

Now, there are reports of regional powers wanting key ministries to be headed only by persons from a particular geographical region. There are loyalists, who now seem to have been suddenly understood as too ambitious and power-hungry to be given government appointments in spite of their excessive commitment and personal contributions to electoral success. There are now stories of the Vice President being locked out of Security meetings with service chiefs. There are stories of the President’s wife wearing a $50,000 wristwatch to the Presidential inauguration. There is the outright gaffe of the President referring to his wife as ‘Her Excellency’ after promising to abolish the office of ‘First Lady’.

In the midst of all these, the President is nowhere to be seen before his own folks. Barely two weeks into his administration, the signs perceived by the public are that he has no clue just yet, who should make up his cabinet. It is yet the picture of a very weak and unprepared Muhammadu Buhari that is presently meeting the eyes.

Reaction to this image has not waited for too long. Even though Senator Bukola Saraki belongs to the class of featherweight activists, who fought to install Buhari as President and does not need to be sidelined in disgrace, he is now one character, who has clearly shown to Muhammadu Buhari, how people will ride on him if he does not make amends very quickly and take charge of the country in a very decisive manner without fear of stepping on toes. Rather than ostentatiously declaring non-interference in the selection of National Assembly leaders, it would have taken the President one decisive word or two into Bukola Saraki’s private ears before heading for the G7 summit in Germany to help Saraki beat a very quick retreat from his overblown ambitious rebellion. But when a President tries to be everybody’s darling seeking to appease minds and win friends, he soon learns, how others will strive to stretch the limit before his very eyes.

If reports are anything to go by, Bukola Saraki has simply called the bluff and disgraced the President with impunity before ranking APC members of the legislative houses, who gathered with the President for a crucial meeting while Saraki was busy ordaining himself as a renegade priest in the midst of gleeful death-wishers. While opponents are now relishing the spoils in schadenfreude, a word should now be enough for the President if he wishes to toe the path of wisdom. Bukola Saraki and his friends know too well that the last word has not been spoken on the hijacked Senate Presidency. If anything, Olusegun Obasanjo can help Buhari out very quickly in teaching him methods of stamping his authority in constitutional arrangements of this nature. This is where Buhari still seems to be struggling to come to terms.

By declaring Saraki’s hijacked election as “constitutional” while sticking to his new-won image of a loyal team player subjected to the dictates of his political party, President Buhari now seems to have managed to throw his doubters in a slight state of disarray. He has managed to stand out still as a mysterious winner. The aura of fear that Buhari emitted by declaring the hijacked senate election as “constitutional”, is cladded in indiscernibility much like his declaration of being for all and being for none. For now, no one seems to have a clue, what to make of the President’s comments.

Buhari’s pattern of whipping people in line, if he chooses to travel down that path, will no doubt be strongly rested on the principle of constitutionality as time progresses. After all, what Saraki can do, one would guess, Buhari should be able to do better. It is however, yet a mystery, which path Buhari wishes to toe in this nascent Presidency. The cards have been thrown on the table and Nigerians are waiting to see his sense of cohesion and execution.

He had appealed to Nigerians, particularly on the social media, to exercise a sense of responsibility in practicing citizens’ journalism. Precisely for this reason, many responsible and professional operatives in the conventional world of mass media and social media have been waiting patiently to catch a glimpse of the President’s choices and policy direction particularly in the corruption-ridden petroleum sector. With the understanding that the role of importers will be abolished in favor of hiring the services of foreign companies to refine our crude oil until our refineries are fixed, there is hardly any Nigerian that is not impatient to see the removal of fuel subsidy. This alone, will be a giant stride in freeing up resources for other developmental projects in the near and medium-term.

First however, President Buhari will have to sit up tight and very quickly too if he is to upset the yet suppressed general suspicion that his elevated image of a no-nonsense General may be a serious misunderstanding after all since the late Tunde Idiagbon was the major architect with the disciplinarian credentials.

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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Elections, Governance


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Nigeria: Rescued Boko Haram hostages moved to new location

At least 260 women and children who were rescued from Boko Haram have been moved by the Nigerian military to an undisclosed location, officials said Friday.

They were among several hundred hostages rescued by the military from the Sambisa Forest, a stronghold of the Islamist militant group, in the past month.

Since their rescue, the women and children had been staying at a displaced persons camp in Yola, capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state.

But officials with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency and the Nigerian military said the move to a new location was necessary to enable them to pursue a rehabilitation program and re-enter society.

The transfer took the rescued hostages and their relatives by surprise, according to one witness.

The women and children were ferried in trucks on Tuesday afternoon to the airport, from where they were airlifted to an unknown destination, said Sambo Halliru, a relation of one of the rescued women who was at the camp at the time of the evacuation.

Freed Nigerians speak about captivity

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“We don’t know where they took them to. The women didn’t seem to know where they were being taken to because the soldiers didn’t make any explanation to the women,” Halliru said.

Mohammed Kanar, the coordinator for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency in the northeast, said 260 women and children had been moved to a location “where they can undergo psychotherapy without distraction.”

Another 15 are still in hospital receiving treatment for injuries sustained during the rescue operation and illness they developed during their long trek to safety, he said.

“The Malkohi camp in its present state is not conducive for that due to uncontrolled visits by relations and members of the public which deprive the rescued women the needed concentration to overcome their trauma induced by their captivity in the hands of Boko Haram‎,” Kanar said, declining to say where the women were moved to for security reasons.

A statement from Nigeria’s military put the number of women and children moved from the camp at 275, but gave a similar reason for the transfer.

The former hostages will now be able to undergo a psychosocial rehabilitation program arranged by the Office of the National Security Adviser in a safe, more conducive location, it said.

The rehabilitation program is part of an initiative by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, aimed at countering terrorism.

Boko Haram has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

More than 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since last year, according to Amnesty International.


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An Easy Target: Homophobia For Political Ends

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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Human Rights


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Social media helps curb Nigerian election deathtoll, paving future path



By Olusegun Abolaji Ogundeji


The dozens of deaths that marred the recent Nigerian elections would be considered shocking by the standards of most developed nations. Compared to past elections, however, the violence this time around was limited, and many observers say social media and technology such as biometric card readers played a big role in minimizing conflict.


Online services are credited with keeping people informed during the runup to the elections, promoting the feeling they could communicate and express their views without resorting to violence, and other technology helped to ensure cheating would be kept to a minimum. Nigeria’s experience suggests that tech can play a role in reducing election-related violence in other countries.


The presidential and parliamentary elections were the most peaceful in Nigeria since the nation embraced democracy in 1999. The winner of the presidential election, former military leader Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, will officially take over from incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, of the People’s Democratic Party, at the end of May. It’s the first time a sitting Nigerian president has lost a bid for re-election.


“I do believe that the capacity for social media to connect and inform helped Nigeria conduct a free and fair election and helped to keep violence to a minimum,” said Michael Best, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, via email. With Thomas Smyth from Sassafras Tech Collective, a worker-owned tech co-op in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Best published a qualitative dual case study, “Tweet to Trust: Social Media and Elections in West Africa,” about social media use during the general elections in Nigeria and Liberia in 2011.


Nigeria, in West Africa, is the continent’s most populous nation and has 82 million users of GSM-based mobile phones. A recent Mobile Africa 2015 study conducted in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, and South Africa by GeoPoll and World Wide Worx indicates that Internet access via phones is on the rise in Africa, especially for Facebook use, which stands out as the most common phone activity among the countries surveyed.


While Facebook was the most visible platform for sharing views and information during the Nigerian electoral season, several election-related Twitter handles were created, including hashtags like #NigeriaDecides, which later became #NigeriaHasDecided. 


Google, meanwhile, created a site as a one-stop resource, containing voting information and news relating to the elections, offering content including videos and other digital media for view on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.


Elections in Africa have always been tumultuous. Almost a thousand people died in the post-election period after Nigeria’s last general elections in 2011; about 3,000 people died in the Ivory Coast elections in 2010, for which its former president is still on trial; and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is answering to charges involving the 2007 post-election crisis during which hundreds died.


This year, while the election-related death toll in Nigeria was nowhere near that of four years ago, the country was far from tranquil during election season. Violence caused the government to postpone the presidential election from February to March 28. Elections for senators and representatives were held two weeks later.


The National Human Rights Commission reported that in February it had “received reports of and documented over 60 separate incidents of election-related violence from 22 states spread across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, resulting in which 58 persons have so far been killed and many more injured.” In addition, various reports at the time put the death toll due to attacks by radical Islamic group Boko Haram at 39, though there was no direct link to the elections.


There have not been official reports on election-related death since March, though the All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed earlier this month that 55 of its members had been killed in election violence before the Rivers state governorship election.


There is a limit to what can be achieved through social media and other technology, observers acknowledge.


“Of course, these technologies are not silver bullets nor do they always contribute to positive elements within a democracy, noted Georgia Tech’s Best. But during the recent Nigerian elections, “our experience monitoring social media over our media aggregation platform, named ‘Aggie,’ demonstrated the power of these technologies can be used for good.”


Other experts agree. Through social media and mobile phone usage, a “new type of engagement and advocacy became possible in Nigeria,” said Adeola Oyinlade, a Nigerian lawyer and human rights expert.


Very practical information was shared via social media, Oyinlade noted. For example, card readers were provided by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to read identity cards issued to ensure, among other things, that people could not vote under assumed names. Some people had trouble scanning their cards in the readers, and learned through social media that a seal on the cards had to be removed so they could be read properly, Oyinlade said.


Such use of technology augurs well for other countries as well, Oyinlade said.


“People from African countries going to polls this year can ride upon innovative mobile technological advancement and the efficacy of social media to launch a bottom-up popularization of political participation among people and expand the frontiers of democracy,” Oyinlade said.


African countries holding elections later this year include West African nations Benin, the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Burkina Faso. To be effective, however, technology needs to be coupled with government policies promoting the flow of information, observers point out.


In the Nigerian elections, “I do believe that the use of technology played a major role and will continue to do so,” said Nnenna Nwakanma, Africa regional coordinator of the World Wide Web Foundation, which promotes affordable and uncensored access to the Internet. “However, for information to openly flow, there are policy underpinnings. Nigeria as a country has a FOI (Freedom of Information Act) and INEC practiced open data. In the case of other West African countries, these policy framings are missing and we may be hoping too much in expecting a Nigerian scenario.”


Nigeria itself may continue to develop technology to promote peaceful elections. The Nigerian Society of Engineers, for example, has called for the deployment of electronic voting systems using software developed locally by NigComSat, the country’s satellite communications agency.


Electronic voting systems, however, are not a panacea, Georgia Tech’s Best noted.


“Electronic voting systems can be beneficial if correctly designed and deployed but too often they are actually detrimental due to lack of smart engineering and weak deployments,” Best said. “Across many parts of the United States, for instance, badly designed e-voting machines have actually reduced the transparency and accountability of that nation’s elections,” Best noted. Critics of voting machines in the U.S. blasted the lack voter-verified paper audit trail in various electronic systems.


Technology can not be expected to resolve all election-related problems, for any country. Nigeria’s experience over the last few months, though, shows that social media and other technology can help light the way toward a more peaceful, democratic future for developing nations.


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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Elections, Internet Governance


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