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Posts tagged ‘Goodluck Jonathan administration’

A National Insult Rejected By Okey Ndibe.


 

Okey Ndibe
Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

For those unaware of its source, I might as well state from the outset that the title of this column is not original. It’s adapted from a statement released last week by Wole Soyinka. The statement, which bore the Nobel laureate’s stamp of revulsion at moral impunity, chastised the Goodluck Jonathan administration for its bizarre line-up of 100 personalities worthy of honor at a ceremony marking the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation.

The centenary list, typical of such rolls in Nigeria, was a hodgepodge. It bracketed imperial personages, so-called “contributors to the making of Nigeria”—including Queen Elizabeth 11 of England and Lord Frederick Lugard, first British overseer of the forcibly amalgamated territory—with such notable nationalist fighters as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Anthony Enahoro. It squeezed Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Michael Imoudu, Aminu Kano, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, John Pepper Clark, Chike Obi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Dagogo Fubara, and Moshood Kashimawo Abiola into the same tent as Sani Abacha. In an even weirder development, Mr. Abacha shows up—along with Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida—under the category of “Outstanding Promoters of Unity, Patriotism and National Development”.

How did we quickly forget that Abacha’s looting of public funds from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria was a patriotic act? Or that he gave his cronies licenses to import toxic fuel into Nigeria because he so fiercely loved Nigerians and fervently desired their development? Or that Babangida’s annulment of the June 12 presidential election was a recipe for Nigeria’s unity?

Anybody who only followed the Aso Rock version of the centenary could have run away with the impression that Nigerians are ever grateful to the coalition of British merchants, bureaucrats, adventurers and royals who cobbled their country together—and named it Nigeria. But the deeper truth lies elsewhere. There were two sets of memory at play last week, two attitudes to Nigeria—a so-called nation bereft of a national spirit, a space that is unformed, ill-formed and malformed.

Those who preside today over the looting of billions of dollars of Nigeria’s resources may deceive themselves that the 100th anniversary of the amalgamation of Nigeria is an occasion for celebration. Many—I’d argue, most—Nigerians think otherwise. For several months, the Internet was abuzz with speculations that the legal instruments of amalgamation stipulated one hundred years as the event’s expiry date. With a great sense of expectancy, many looked forward to the formal cessation of the tragic, nightmarish, and blood-soaked experiment called Nigeria. Was the Jonathan administration unaware of this swell of hope that Nigeria should cease?

In the build-up to the centenary, the band of Islamist extremists known as Boko Haram carried out one of their most savage and outrageous attacks yet. They stormed a secondary school in Yobe under the cover of darkness, slaughtered 60 boys, and set their victims’ dorms on fire. In any serious country, one such act would forever scar the collective conscience, provoking a resolve of “Never again!” Not in Nigeria, a place where a human life is worth far less than a chicken. How did Nigeria’s “transformational” leadership respond to this latest callousness by Boko Haram? It responded in its accustomed soft, indifferent manner. It issued the same tiresome, obligatory condemnation of the carnage, nothing more. The Presidency did not consider the shocking abbreviation of so many innocent lives an occasion to devise and announce a bold, effective plan to assure the safety of all citizens, especially school children, in the Boko Haram-plagued, terror-infested areas. It was, as usual, a do-nothing stance.

But then the government did something even worse than habitual abdication. Apparently, Reno Omokri, Mr. Jonathan’s point man on social media, orchestrated a release that sought to link Nigeria’s suspended Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, with a spike in Boko Haram’s gruesome activities, including the Yobe slaughter. Apparently Mr. Omokri did not reckon with the fact that many Nigerians are quite adept at cyber intelligence, deft at the kind of detective work that can unmask those who exploit the seeming anonymity of the Internet to slander others. Mr. Sanusi is the Jonathan administration’s Public Enemy Number One. The sacked CBN Governor committed the unpardonable sin of telling the world that a major agency of the Nigerian state had failed to deposit $20 billion earned from crude oil exports. In response, the government accused Mr. Sanusi of squandering the funds of the bank he ran, awarding contracts without following requisite laws, and dispensing Nigeria’s funds as if they were his private treasury.

If Mr. Sanusi committed these crimes, I’d like to see him prosecuted, convicted and punished. I’d also like to see the administration account fully for the funds that Mr. Sanusi alleged to be missing. Here’s what the government doesn’t have a right to do: sending Mr. Omokri, its cyber warrior-in-chief, to concoct and disseminate horrific lies against Mr. Sanusi or any Nigerian. Unless Mr. Omokri can demonstrate that he did not mastermind the craven forgery, he ought to resign immediately. Or be fired.

It’s tragic that the Nigerian government, from the president to his aides, continues to fiddle while the country burns. It’s shameful that President Jonathan and Nigerian legislators prioritize a phantom war—going after gays—when the country is besieged by mindless, well-armed zealots who see unarmed Nigerians, including children, as fair game. How does the targeting of gays solve Nigeria’s infrastructural problems? Are gays the reason elections are massively rigged in Nigeria; public funds looted with depraved greed; our educational system a shambles; our healthcare system ghastly?

Nigeria fought a civil war that claimed anything from one to three million lives. It was a war to defend a British-made idea, to uphold the sanctity of a space wrought by British imperial fiat. The mantra was: To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done. To their credit, the British had an excellent reason for keeping Nigeria one. Nigeria was their largest holding in Africa (and their second largest anywhere, after India). It was a prodigious source of raw materials for British firms as well as a huge dumping ground for British-made goods. It made sound sense, from the British point of view, to keep Nigeria one.

As British rule ended, the Nigerian elite who inherited the spoils of the state adopted as an article of faith the idea that Nigeria must remain one entity. But they shied away from asking the hard questions. What’s so sacred about Nigeria? Why should we remain one? What ends are served by remaining one? What does Nigeria represent? And—if unity was not negotiable—then what must be the irreducible terms of our engagement?

I’ve argued before that a central part of Nigeria’s tragedy arises from the fact that the country fought a costly war, but has never permitted the lessons of that war to inform its conduct, to shape its ethos. It’s as if we went to war to defend the right of a few to continue to plunder, to continue to feed fat at the expense of the rest of us, to perpetually rig themselves into power, and to add their contemptible names to every roll of honor, even though they refrain from doing anything that is remotely honorable.

As Mr. Jonathan feted the so-called giants of Nigeria’s centenary, a different, oppositional narrative played itself out. The collective memory of the vast majority of Nigerians beheld Nigeria, not as a splendid monument, but as a sordid, wretched edifice. They saw what Mr. Jonathan and his ilk refuse to see: that the Nigerian state is a provocation, a moral affront, a failed, misery-dispensing state.

Soyinka captured part of the spirit of that deep split in the way Nigeria is regarded. He acted bravely by excusing himself from the insouciant official ritual that amounted to an insult to the outraged sensibilities of the majority of Nigerians. In a statement of renunciation titled “Canonization of Terror,” Mr. Soyinka called attention to the wasted lives of the students in Yobe. He drew our attention to “the entire ethical landscape into which this nation has been forced by insensate leadership.” He would not succumb to the summons to collective amnesia, the only condition under which an ogre like Sani Abacha would be invited to arise, ghost-like, to accept national veneration as a patriotic champion of Nigerian “unity and national development.” Stated Mr. Soyinka: “Under that ruler, torture and other forms of barbarism were enthroned as the norm of governance. To round up, nine Nigerian citizens, including the writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged after a trial that was stomach churning even by the most primitive standards of judicial trial, and in defiance of the intervention of world leadership.”

In the end, Soyinka spoke for me—and I suggest, for many other enlightened people—when he stated, “I reject my share of this national insult.”

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

 

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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U.S. releases damning human rights report about Nigeria.


 

“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram.”
A new report by the United States has described Nigeria as a country where corruption, official impunity, and gross human rights violations occur at will.
The report described the human rights violations to include extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, mistreatment of detainees, destruction of property, violence against women, vigilante killings, child labour, forced and bonded labour, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This assessment of Nigeria is according to the 2013 Country Report on Human Rights. The report, which is now in its 38th year, is sanctioned by the U.S. Congress. It, amongst other things, helps inform the U.S. government policy and foreign assistance.
According to the report, the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and the Nigerian Government are the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses in the country.
“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram, which conducted killings, bombings, abduction and rape of women, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction of property; those committed by security services, which perpetrated extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, and destruction of property; and widespread societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious violence,” the report said.
The report came hard on the Goodluck Jonathan administration for institutionalising impunity with the state pardon granted to serial money launderer and former governor of Bayelsa State, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha. It also said the Nigeria government has displayed no willingness to prosecute soldiers and police officers accused of gross human rights violations.
The report makes specific reference to the refusal of the government to prosecute members of the armed forces found to have perpetrated extrajudicial killing and torture in clear disregard of the recommendation of The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Committee against Torture.
“During the year joint task forces (JTFs), composed of elements of the military, police, and other security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, and Yobe. These raids resulted in numerous deaths of and injuries to alleged criminals, militants, and civilians. Local NGOs, international human rights groups, and political and traditional leaders in the affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings.
“The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.”
Inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
The report frowned at the technique of “parading” of suspects commonly used by the police. It observed that most of those paraded are subjected to public ridicule or abuse.
“Police commonly used a technique called “parading” of arrestees. Parading involved literally walking arrestees through public spaces, subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse.
“Bystanders often hurled taunts, food, and other objects. Police defended this practice with the argument that public humiliation helped deter crime,” it said.
It further observed that police flagrantly extort money from civilians and in blatant violation of the law. They use torture to extract confessions from suspects, which are later used to secure convictions in court.
The report indicts the police of rape and other sexual offences of women in their custody. In one example in Abraka in Delta State, in March 2013, a woman said four men raped her while she was in police custody. She said the police had put her in the same cell as the men. She accused the police of failing to help her. According to her, the investigating police office told her to keep quiet about the incident.
Over-crowded and disease-infested prisons
The report described a horrid condition of the country’s prison. It said the prisons are mostly over-crowded and in such deplorable states that they provide fertile breeding grounds for communicable disease. It said prisoners are poorly fed and their health neglected.
For instance, it observed that inmates with mental illness are kept among the general population. Prison warders are also accused of widespread torture, extortions, and sexual abuses such as rape of female inmates.
“Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners, a majority of whom had not been tried, were subject to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, inadequate medical treatment, deliberate and incidental exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions and could result in death.”
“Reports indicated guards and prison officials extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, and prisoner release. In some cases female inmates faced the threat of rape. Female prisoners pregnant at the time of incarceration gave birth to and raised their babies in prison,” it added.
“Overcrowding was a significant problem in some prisons. Although national capacity stood at 47,284, an imbalance in the use of prisons resulted in underutilization at some facilities, while others were at more than 800 percent of their designed capacity. For example, the Owerri Federal Prison had the capacity to hold 548 prisoners but held more than 1,784. Ogwuashi-Uku prison in Delta State, with a capacity to house 64 prisoners, housed 541, while Port Harcourt prison, with a capacity to hold 804, held 2,955. Ijebu-Ode prison in Lagos, with a capacity to hold 49 prisoners, held 309,” it continued.
“Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born there–lived in the prisons. A 2006 report on the rights and welfare of children from the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to the African Union found an estimated 6,000 children lived in prisons and detention centers. The Nigerian Prison Service reported, however, that as of March, 69 infants resided in prison with their mothers while 847 juvenile inmates were detained in juvenile detention centers.”
Freedom of Speech
The report observed that though the freedom of speech and a free press are guaranteed by the constitution, high-handed security and government officials still occasionally harass journalists.
The report made a case in point of the December 2012 raid of the homes and offices of the editor Musa Muhammad Awwal and reporter Aliyu Saleh of the Hausa-language weekly newspaper Al-Mizan, confiscating their phones and laptops as well as detaining the journalists and their wives.
“Politicians and political parties harassed and attacked journalists perceived as reporting on them or their interests in a negative manner. For example, on April 8, authorities in Abuja detained two reporters for Leadership Newspaper, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, following the publication on April 3 of an article alleging that President Jonathan had ordered the disruption of operations of his political opponents. Authorities charged the two men with “vexatious publication.” All charges were later dropped.
“Journalists also were at risk of abduction. For example, in March assailants in Ondo State abducted a Nigeria Television Authority journalist, Olubunmi Oke, as she arrived home from work with her infant child and maid. The child and maid were later released. Media reports stated that the assailants had demanded an eight million naira ($50,240) ransom. Oke was freed after three days, following the payment of an undisclosed ransom.
Nicholas Ibekwe
(From Biafra Galaxy)

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