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Nigeria’s democratic backsliding

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Democratic Nigeria

By Aminu Ali

Freedom of speech is one of the cardinal pillars of democracy and an accelerator of transition to democratic consolidation.

But in Nigeria, free speech is routinely being threatened.

For instance, the incessant and flagrant clampdown on activists, journalists and preachers who are bold enough to call out the downright incompetence, impunity and cluelessness of those who lead them is quite alarming.

Some of them are being harassed and intimidated, others are detained for several months without trial or are being denied bail even after securing an order from a court of competent jurisdiction.

Freedom of expression, rights to lawful assembly and peaceful protest are inalienable as they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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But while pro-government protesters are given the freedom to conduct their rallies, those oppose to its unpopular policies are being suppressed using state security apparatuses.

As Rosa Luxemburg aptly argues “freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party…. is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters.”

An unrepentant fascist

As Buhari’s government intensifies its efforts to gag dissent, concerns about the shrinking of civic space and heightened risk of democratic regression are becoming more and more pronounced. This is evident in the scale of public outrage that trailed the illegal detention of the organizers of the #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowere and Bakare Mandate.

When civil rights are denied, accountability in governance is well-nigh impossible and, consequently, politics of irresponsibility prevails and the nation plunges into dictatorship.

Therefore, Nigerians need to be more vigilant in averting the seeming erosion of civic space and subversion of democratic norms. If we remain acquiescent, despondent or complacent in the face of ceaseless assaults on our civil rights, our rulers will become bolder in wrecking the ideals upon which democracy is built.

In 1983, Major General Buhari (as he was then known) overthrew a democratically elected government.

The military government he formed became notorious for promulgation of draconian and repressive laws, such as the infamous Decree 4, which criminalized dissent.

Nigerians forgave his heinous act and elected him as their civilian president.

Alas, the brazen violations of civil and democratic rights and the wanton disregard for the rule of law under Buhari’s watch give Nigerians the impression that he is an unrepentant fascist.

The overt endorsement of the Social Media Bill by the APC-led government is also a manifestation of its anti-democratic posture. In his inaugural speech in May 29, 2015 president Buhari acknowledged the role played by the social media in securing his election victory.

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Surprisingly, however, the government he leads is now unwilling to tolerate the censure his predecessor was subjected to by the same media he praised not quite long ago!

Rule of law under threat

Selective obedience to court order is now a commonplace in Nigeria. Governments swiftly obey orders that suit them while ignoring those that do not.

For example, when the Code of Conduct Tribunal granted an order to President Buhari to suspend the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, he happily implemented the order.

But when courts ordered for the release of Sowere and the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, El-zakzaky, the same government has blatantly refused to comply!

What this means is that the State has now become a promoter of lawlessness.

The principle of separation of power is increasingly being threatened.

The legislature has been compromised; it is a bunch of yes boys of the Presidency.

Executive bills are being passed by lawmakers without robust debates and, worse still, sometimes even before they are privy to its content.

In essence, the legislature is seemingly a mere rubber stamp.

The judiciary is also not spared: intimidation of judges, disregard for court order and desecration of court are the order of the day. When the independence of these organs is undermined through whatever means, executive recklessness prevails.

Sham elections

The integrity of our electoral process is rapidly diminishing.

As I argued elsewhere, “voter suppression, ballot snatching and stuffing, vote-buying, violence, militarization of polls, among other forms of irregularities and malpractices, have become the defining features of our elections.”

The outcome of polls is not determined by popular vote. Consequently, elections no longer provide opportunities for the electorate to humiliate leaders who have under-performed.

In other words, those who have performed abysmally can secure reelection as long as they have control over security agents and possess money to hire thugs and buy votes.

Politics of brinksmanship is pervasive in Nigeria, largely because holding political offices is the most lucrative occupation, as holders have unfettered access to public purses.

And since we have no viable system of accountability, they brazenly plunder our collective patrimony, often without any serious consequences.

Therefore, struggles to capture and retain political office become a do or die affair.

More worrisomely, this politics of brinksmanship has made democratic consolidation difficult and, worse still, is aggravating democratic backsliding.

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From the foregoing analyses, one thing is very clear: Nigeria is experiencing what Nancy Bermeo calls democratic backsliding. This is driven by abuse of civil and democratic rights; disregard for the rule of law; weakened independence of the legislature and judiciary; decline in the integrity of electoral process and politics of brinksmanship; poor management of the country’s economy and imposition of unpopular/anti-poor policies, which makes the democracy unbeneficial to the toiling Nigerians.

The dwindling living condition of Nigerians, which is occasioned by imposition of neo-liberal and anti-poor policies, has become horrible.

Withdrawal of subsidies, devaluation of naira, increase in taxes and their attendant consequences on the cost of living, declined investments in social services – such as education, health, portable water and electricity – have not only denied us the dividend of democracy but have deepened the crises that pose existential threat to the country’s corporate existence.

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Nigeria is gradually getting enmeshed in debt crisis.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), 50% of the country’s revenue goes to debt servicing.

Also, a Premium Times investigation shows that a quarter of the 2020 budget will go to debt servicing.

Yet, Nigerian government has continued to borrow.

It’s unthinkable that while the government claims that it has recovered looted funds, blocked leakages and expanded our revenue base, it has continued to borrow money to carry out its obligations. One of the terrible consequences of this over borrowing is that the county is left with little resources to invest in the provision of essential social services.

From the foregoing analyses, one thing is very clear: Nigeria is experiencing what Nancy Bermeo calls democratic backsliding. This is driven by abuse of civil and democratic rights; disregard for the rule of law; weakened independence of the legislature and judiciary; decline in the integrity of electoral process and politics of brinksmanship; poor management of the country’s economy and imposition of unpopular/anti-poor policies, which makes the democracy unbeneficial to the toiling Nigerians.

Aminu Ali wrote from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via email aminuali@yahoo.com

 

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Kwankwaso left over N50bn liability for LGs 5km projects – Kano Govt

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Rabiu Kwankwaso

Nasiru Yusuf

Kano state government said the administration of former Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso left a liability of N54, 408, 259, 638.05 billion for the five kilometre road projects across the 44 local government areas of the state.

Kano Focus reports that the state commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba dropped the hint on Sunday while addressing newsmen on the outcome of the state Executive Council Meeting held at the Africa House, Government House, Kano.

He said the council received the report of the Technical Committee to assess the 5 km road projects all of which were awarded by the previous administration under the defunct Ministry of Land and Physical Planning with the state Urban Planning and Development Authority (KNUPDA) as supervising agency.

Mr Garba said the committee visited 39 local governments where its detailed report indicated awarded contract sum for the projects, present site conditions, value of executed works, amount certified and amount released for the projects.

The commissioner pointed out that 5km projects in three local governments were revoked and rewarded due to non-performance in Warawa, Ungogo and Dawakin Tofa, while some portions of the projects in Tsanyawa and Bichi along Kano-Katsina road were released to the federal ministry of works and housing based on request from the federal government.

He said other three projects in Rimin Gado, Karaye and Bunkure local government that fall within main arterial highway were expunged from the main project and re-awarded separately for execution, while metropolitan local governments of Dala, Nassarawa, Gwale, Municipal and Tarauni were allotted various projects within the municipality as 5km projects.

Mr Garba pointed out that the council has approved the release of N607, 124, 663.47 million for the rehabilitation of Rimin Gado-Sabon Fegi-Jilli-Gulu road in Rimin Gado local government.

The commissioner stated that approval has also been given by the council for the conversion of the existing School of Post Basic Midwifery Gezawa to the status of School of Nursing Gezawa to broaden the platform for training of more qualified midwives in order to reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in the state.

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Kano domesticate social protection policy

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Abdullahi Ganduje

Nasiru Yusuf

Kano state governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has approved the domestication of National social protection policy in the state.

Kano Focus reports that the Social Protection Policy is designed to show the commitment of the Government to the effective mobilisation and efficient utilisation of state resources to improve the quality of life of its citizens.

The state Commissioner of planning and budget Nura Muhammad Dankadai revealed this on Friday at a one day interactive session with with journalists and civil society organizations.

Alhaji Nura Muhammad Dankadai

Mr Dankadai said governor Ganduje approved the domestication of the policy on Thursday.

According to him when domesticated the policy will provide legal framework for school feeding programme, ante natal and post natal care, addressing gender based violence and protecting people living with disabilities.

On the meeting with journalists, Mr Dankadai said it was aimed at intimating them with on the state government’s projects and received some inputs for possible submission to the government.

The commissioner uses the opportunity to appeal to civil society organizations and journalists to sensitise people on the current economic challenges which made it difficult for the state to pay workers salary for the month of March.

In their separate contributions Akibu Hamisu, I. G Maryam and Wali Ado Rano advised Kano state government on the need to address multiple taxation, grant local government financial autonomy and holding periodic interactive session with CSOs and journalists.

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AKTH honours NCC Boss UG Danbatta

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Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, being presented with an appreciation award by Prof. Abdulrahman Sheshe, Chief Medical Director, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), Kano, during the courtesy visit.

Nasiru Yusuf

 

The management of Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital has visited the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission Umar Garba Danbatta.

Kano Focus reports that during the visit the AKTH team also presented an award to Danbatta as an expression of the hospital’s appreciation for the enormous contributions of the EVC and the Commission to the development of health institutions over the years in the country.

Speaking during the visit, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of AKTH, Abdulrahman Sheshe, who led the delegation on the courtesy call, said, “the objective of our being here today is to appreciate your contribution in person and as EVC of NCC to the growth and development of the teaching hospital.”

According to Sheshe, through the support and donations from Kano people like the EVC and institutions like NCC, the hospital has increased its bed capacity from 250 to 700, as well as performing 57 successful transplant surgeries.

“You have also made enormous contributions in this regard and that has helped us to get new dialysis machines through your assistance and these machines are being put to use, aside from other state-of-the-art equipment already in place,” he said while appreciating the EVC.

The CMD, however, sought NCC’s support in the area of a Health Information Management System (HIMS) and digital capacity for staff.

Responding, however, Danbatta thanked the hospital management for the visit and the award, noting that the Commission supports federal institutions with necessary ICT equipment across the country and is ready to assist AKTH in this regard.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta

“As a Commission, we are working to bridge the infrastructure divide, which is an element of the entire digital ecosystem. We do this via a lot of ongoing regulatory initiatives. And, through our training arm, Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), we provide digital literacy to critical sectors of the economy, including the health sector, we also intervene through our Advanced Digital Appreciation Programme,” he said.

According to Danbatta, digital divide can be bridged by making computers available and ICT services accessible to people and key sectors of the economy.

Danbatta (middle) flanked by top management committee of AKTH and NCC staff during the courtesy visit

“Infrastructure that can host this massive flow of information and knowledge is broadband infrastructure and this is top-most in the agenda of the Commission. Indeed, ICT is transforming every sector of the economy and the earlier we embrace the vast opportunity brought by ICT the better,” the EVC pointed out.

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