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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.

Poor economic management adversely effects transition to democratic consolidation.

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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NCC orders telecom operators to block SIMs without NIN

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

The Nigerian Communications Commission has reiterated its directive to telecom operators to bar telephone subscribers not linked to their National Identification Numbers on or before February 28, 2024.

KANO FOCUS reports that the Executive Vice Chairman, National Communication Commission, Dr Aminu Maida, spoke at the NCC’s Special Day during the ongoing 45th Kaduna International Trade Fair on Wednesday.

Maida who was represented by Reuben Mouka, NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, insisted that as a matter of critical national security, telecom consumers must link their NIN to their SIM.

He reaffirmed that the February 28th deadline given to telecom operators to bar subscribers who failed to link their NIN to SIM, stands.

“To this end, the National Communication Commission has directed all telecommunication operators to bar phone lines of subscribers whose lines are not linked to their NINs on or before February 28, 2024,” he added.

This, the executive vice chairman said, was apt as the theme resonated with the principles and objectives of the commission in promoting local content development in the telecom industry.

Maida also said the NCC was committed to protecting consumers’ rights while ensuring their satisfaction and noting that the commission has created a universally acceptable environment to access “affordable and equitable service and supports the nation’s economic growth.”

“As a regulator of the telecommunications sector in the country, the Commission carries out its functions to ensure service availability, affordability, and sustainability for all categories of consumers, who are leveraging on ICT/Telecoms to drive personal and business activities,” he said.

For instance, he continued that the Telecom Consumer Assistance, Resolution and Enquiries (TELCARE) Desk at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Internatonal Airport Abuja The TELCARE desk was set up to further provide an additional platform to make enquiries on customer issues, receive and facilitate the resolution of telecom consumer complaints.

He explained that by “working together, we can create a more vibrant telecommunications industry that contributes significantly to the economic recovery and growth.”

According to him, as of 2023, the telecoms industry’s contribution to the nation’s GDP stood at 13.5% (Source – Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report November 2023-A publication of the National Bureau of Statistics.

“Conversely, as we promote economic growth through the development of local content, we must also address the challenges faced by consumers and NCC is committed to protecting their rights while ensuring their satisfaction.

The NCC boss, therefore urged telecom firms to prioritize customer satisfaction and uphold the highest standards of service delivery, noting that the commission has implemented measures to safeguard the interests of consumers and businesses alike.

One such measure, he said, was the NCC’s directive on May 17, 2023, that all licensed Mobile Network Operators commence implementation of approved Harmonised Short Codes for providing services to Nigerian telecom consumers.

“The new initiative is enabling consumers using the over 224 million active mobile telephone lines in Nigeria to use the same codes to access services across all networks,” he added.

Meanwhile, the NCC boss disclosed that as of 2023, the telecoms industry’s contribution to the nation’s GDP stood at 13.5 per cent, according to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report November 2023 – A publication of the National Bureau of Statistics.

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ACT closure: Kano beneficiaries share testimonies

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

As the the Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) programme held a close out event in Kano, some beneficiaries have shared their testimonies during their engagement.

KANO FOCUS reports that the beneficiaries take a cue to share positive experience obtained during their engagement with ACT programme.

The president of Kano Civil Society Forum (UCSF) Comrade Ibrahim Waiya was the first to share experience on the benefits derived from ACT programme.

Comrade Ibrahim Waiya

KCSF had received €1 084,63 to create awareness and sensitise the public on
the spread of COVID-19 in Kano State.

In her testimony, the Executive Director of SACALSUN Hauwa Adamu Kakuri, a breast cancer survivor who set up an NGO for cancer awareness campaign recalled how the mentorship she received from CS-CRIN, one of the ACT grantees, empowered her to secured a 10,000 dollar grant.

Appraising the implementation of the programme in Kano state the programme officer of CARAV Abba Bello said they have secured a grant from ACT where they work on strengthening community response on gender based violence at Nassarwa Dala and Kumbotso local government areas.

He cited an example of one intervention at Sheka quartees in Kumbotso local government area where they rehabilitate some young girls who engages in commercial sex.

For Abdurrazaq Alkali, the Executive Director of OCCEN, said ACT has supported them to promote good governance and accountability in Kano where their advocacy led to the passage of procurement law.

Abdurrazaq Alkali

Also commenting chairman of Kano State Accountability Forum on Education (K-SAFE) Professor Muhammad Bello Shittu commended ACT for identifying credible Civil Society Organisations and supporting them.

Professor Muhammad Bello Shittu

He equally commended ACT engagement with regulatory bodies such as Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) during the course of their intervention especially by developing a regulatory framework that is humanly understandable.

Professor Shittu expressed optimism that the lesson learned from the project would be sustained even after the exit of the programme.

He lamented that in many instances once the donor leave, the project dies, despite huge capital and material investmentinvestment.

The event featured presentation from the commissioner of special duties Hajiya Amina Abdullahi Sani (GOD), representative of Emir of Kano Alhaji Sule Gaya (Dan Goribar Kano), ACT National Programme Manager Damilare Babalola, ACT Kano state Focal Person Hajiya Rabi Adamu and ACT communication and media engagement adviser Hajiya Lauratu Abdussalam.

The Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) is a four-year EU programme funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council, Nigeria. The programme is linked to the reform objectives of the three EU focal sectors of the 11th National Indicative programme (NIP).

The ACT programme was designed as a response strategy to the EU’s identified need to invest and engage more with the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria as required under the larger global EU CSO roadmap framework. EU-ACT recognises that strengthened civil society actors have great potential to contribute to thechange achievement of sustainable development, ACT programme focused on strengthening the capability of CSOs to become more effective and credible drivers of change.

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High Court jails two bureau de change operators in Kano

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

The Federal High Court Kano presided over by Justice Mohammed Nasir Tuesday, convicted and sentenced two illegal bureau de change operators to one year imprisonment each for operating BDC without an appropriate licence.

KANO FOCUS reports that the convicts: Munkaila Sani and Mohammed Sani were jailed after pleading guilty to one-count separate charge bordering on engaging in financial operations of bureau de change without a requisite licence, upon their arraignment by the Kano Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The lone-count charge reads ‘’That you Munkaila Sani sometime in February, 2024 in Kano within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did engage in a financial operation of bureau de change without a valid licence and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 57 (5) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, 2020 and punishable under Section 57 (5) (B) of the same act.’’

Upon arraignment, the defendants pleaded guilty to their respective charges when they were read to them. Based on their pleas, prosecution counsel, Aisha Tahar Habib prayed the court to convict and sentence them accordingly.

Counsel to the defendants, Abdulrahman Isah pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy as the suspect are elderly and have become remorseful for their actions.

Consequently, Justice Yunusa convicted and sentenced the defendants to one year imprisonment each.

The convicts’ began their journey to the Correctional Centre when they were arrested by operatives of the Commission around Wapa BDC market and Grand Central Hotel, Kano, following reliable intelligence about their involvement in a syndicate operating bureau de change businesses without an appropriate licence.

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