Nigeria: #NigeriaBleeds - Can Civil Society Force Buhari's Hand?

Protesters at an #EndSARS protest in Lagos in mid-October, 2020 (file photo).
26 May 2021

Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Nigerians have refused to heed the call by civil society groups to register their displeasure with the state of affairs across the country by participating a series of mass actions, participate in solemn assemblies across the country to commemorate the 4th National Day of Mourning and Remembrance of Victims of Mass Atrocities on May 28 and they are not likely to boycott all Democracy Day activities on May 29 in protest against the deplorable state of Nigeria's democracy

A couple of days ago, a seemingly innocuous gathering of a activists took after which they all spoke with one voice concerning the increasing insecurity in Nigeria, raising an alarm about its wider implications.

Arguably, a record number of 126 civil society groups have never come together in pursuit of one goal. Under the auspices of the Joint Action Civil Society Coalition/ Nigeria Mourns Secretariat, they drew attention to the sharp increase of 43 percent in mass atrocities in 2020, Nigeria has continued to experience a decline in security across the nation. In the first quarter of 2021 (January to March), the country recorded an all-time quarterly high of almost 2000 fatalities from mass atrocities incidents across the country. Across the six geopolitical zones, there have been escalated combustions of violence resulting in even more deaths.

Surprisingly, the collective voice of the groups which should normally resonate round the country, provoking reactions was muted. While the Asaba Declaration of the Southern governors was elevated to the centrestage of public discourse, the civil society coalition communique which contained equally salient issues of national importance passed on with a whisper. The

#NigeriaBleeds which the group has the capacity to shoot into the collective consciousness of the nation, barely got a passing attention. Its twin campaign #NigeriaMourns has also suffered a similar fate.

To be sure, the group had issued a statement last February. It catalogued the assortment of mass atrocities plaguing the country, in particular: The unending war in the North-east with our troops often bearing the brunt of this government's security failures.

The latest conclave of the group took because it is convinced that nothing has changed it last expressed concern over the deterioration of the country in all spheres.

Another issue that moved it into action is the gross injustices by President Buhari's government against the Nigerian people such that peaceful protesters are threatened and attacked by the government's security agents while terrorists carrying out mass murder, rape, maiming and kidnapping of Nigerians including women and children are feted, molly coddled, granted 'amnesty' and paid by the government. This is tantamount to funding and supporting terrorists, encouraging murder and the decimation of the Nigeria's gallant troops and amounts to treason against the Nigerian State and people.

o Terrorist herder attacks on unarmed farming communities and reprisal attacks in the face of government inaction and failure to bring the terrorist herdsmen and their funders to justice.

Large scale terrorist attacks in the North West irresponsibly tagged by the government as 'banditry' in a bid to downplay their criminality.

Industrial scale kidnappings all across the country.

Extrajudicial killings by state security agents in various forms,

Inter-ethnic violence; and

Menace of political cult gangs and ethnic militia; and in that statement we had called on the government of General Muhammad Buhari to take immediate actions to:

Provide political and moral leadership for the security crisis and ensure governmental actions are humane in tandem with Section 17 (2) (C) of the Constitution.

End impunity for abuse of power and sectionalism through his appointments by balancing the need for competence with the federal character principle. In this way, he will demonstrate that every part of Nigeria matters as sectional appointments appear to fuel sectional violence.

Take responsibility and end the persecution of the media and free speech both of which are foundations of a democratic state.\Mobilize our rich Nigerian assets to address the insecurity situation across the country and seek international cooperation to ramp up security assets.

We had also demanded that where the President fails to fulfill his constitutional duties as stated above, that he steps aside, or, that the National Assembly initiates impeachment proceedings against him on grounds of gross misconduct as provided for in Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We are appalled to note that despite our strongly worded statement, President Buhari's government has failed to heed our call to fulfil his role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Nigeria's democratically elected President. We are therefore left with no other option than to take action to drive home our call to the government.

Therefore, the group is calling on all Nigerians to register their displeasure with the state of affairs across the country by participating a series of mass actions from Monday the 26th of May 2021, participate in solemn assemblies across the country to commemorate the 4th National Day of Mourning and Remembrance of Victims of Mass Atrocities on May 28th 2021 and boycott all Democracy Day activities on May 29, 2021 in protest of the deplorable state of our democracy.

The coalition of Civil Society groups has again called on Muhammadu Buhari led national government and the state governments to rise up to their constitutional duties as enshrined in S14(2)(b), to ensure the security and welfare of all Nigerians, and pull the nation back from the path of destruction.

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