Beyond Amnesty International Reports: Civil – Military Relationship in Nigeria

Beyond Amnesty International Reports: Civil – Military Relationship in Nigeria

While some are debating about Big Brother Naija(BBN), Amnesty International (AI) published a bashing human right report on the Nigerian Military, I think these are more pressing issues that tell directly on us and our perception in the International sphere than BBN. The general perception of the average young Nigerian has always been towards entertainment and the arts, which are not wrong in themselves, but requires balance to make us global citizens and engage more in active statesmanship. The quest for development cannot be achieved until we collectively get involved in those things that matter and concerns national development the most, this isn’t stopping them from being social or interact within the social space but to place emphasis on these various issues will go a long way to make these issues potent in the public domain.

The disappointments and the mystery many shares from the backlogs of bad governance and social injustice could be a justifiable reason for this wide lack of morale, but we must all collectively understand that the future must be better than the past, hence the need to be more active citizens than just active netizens, engaging more in the collectivity of our reality and steering the ship of state to focus more on pressing issues covertly influencing governmental policies, human and civil rights to the point where spaces will be vacated for young people to show what they have gathered over the years as political power will not just fall on our laps, we must work (hard) for it.

Some people deliberately have raised serious issues on the details of the report with more focus on killings of civilians by the military following various claims by CSOs, Amnesty claims its reports are concrete following the kind of methodology it used including the world acclaimed ‘triangulation’. The document which is over 400 pages, highlights the human rights abuses and violation world over in an alphabetical order. This report is a yearly survey which is geared majorly towards ‘state actors’ with little or no importance to ‘non-state actors or parties to conflict’.This emphasis has made it a little difficult for people to fully comprehend why not enough credence is giving to the military with all its successes in the offensive against terrorists and its strides in protecting the territorial integrity of the Nation.

Nigerians may not understand vividly what all these means, while conflict entrepreneurs may use these as a bashing tool against the government and military, I am not taking sides here but just analyzing these issues based on facts and available data, to be able to strike a balance from the whole situation, no matter how confusing it may look like.

I watched the Researcher from Amnesty International on Sunrise daily (24/02/2017) talking about the report and how the army has been indicted and to balance up immediately was the Spokesman of the military, who debunked all allegations and also opined that the videos and pictures released are cropped and hence not true, stating vehemently that the Army should be celebrated for its feats in keeping the nation together as one through all the various unrests in all parts of the country as if they are doing us a favor in discharging their job responsibilities.

The disconnect here is however how the Army has consistently denied ALL these allegations stating that it doesn’t kill citizens and just abides by the Rule of Law and Rules of Engagements as it is enshrined in the constitution as their responsibility. Truth is, in the past, the military has proven to be above the law and has dealt ruthlessly with civilians in purely civil issues, they have ruled as gods on the street as we have seen so many times physically and on Social Media, beating, maiming, threatening harmless civilians at different locations and times in the country. This shameful act has over the years characterized the military as their presence anywhere only exudes fear and panic. This reality has developed an impression in the minds of every Nigerian, young and old which has further deepened and widen the gaps of interaction between the military and civilians in the country, the fear is not location sensitive.

I have had my fair share of military brutality, and it wasn’t a palatable one. Sometime in 2012, I was enroute Makurdi, Benue State, with some students in an 18 seater bus for a wedding, I have had a foreknowledge of the madness that comes with Military brutality as a regular traveller, before this time I wasn’t a victim and as such never had a close shave with the military, we got to a military checkpoint at the fringes of Okene, Kogi State, the driver had not seen that kind of sights before and was very amused, he saw people ‘frog jumping’ in a row, the other occupants in the bus expressed such amazement, but I cautioned them silently, we were about moving past the checkpoint when the husky voice thundered “stop dier”, I immediately knew there was trouble, when the driver was too excited and laughed out loud, we were all paraded out of the bus leaving out the ladies and a man who identified himself as a Pastor. The rest of us tried insisting that we were undergraduates with ID cards flashing everywhere to no avail, we filled out in a line like the victims before us and perform the delegated punishment for our driver’s laughter.

I was quite unfortunate that day as we returned to the bus after the punishment for laughing, though very angry and could hardly walk well, I tried to hide my anger in a smile only for the soldier to tell me to go start from the beginning again as he opined I was ‘smiling too much’. Some will opine that this is a result of the military hangover from the days of dictatorship and military incursion in politics, but we will bear witness to the fact that in recent times the military have started purging itself of these civil abuses with the way it handled the cripple man who was abused by its men.

In the times of War, as we have in the North East, International best practices enshrined in the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and other conventions and protocols, places a definite demand on State actors to protect the civilian populace and further gives detailed guidelines of how to treat Prisoners of War (POW), maintaining the HUMAN RIGHTS and to treat with all sense of HUMAN DIGNITY of even the insurgents and other non-state actors involved in the armed conflict, when they are arrested .

This is a point where many defer, as they simply cannot comprehend why when a terrorist is caught, he should not be killed without been tried first by a competent court, and not just to be shot arbitrarily, why a terrorist still have ‘human rights’ and that rights must be protected with the terrorist having his own share of relief materials and should not be tortured to give information. This thought bothered me so much as a postgraduate student studying International Humanitarian Law as a course, I could not comprehend either at first but as I dug deeper, I got more clarity about the various dimensions of these issues. Unfortunately, the mandate of Amnesty International is to sustain advocacy on International Humanitarian Law and other issues that pertain to Human Rights abuses.

My opinion should be for the Military to intensify its efforts on bringing to book those within its ranks whenever issues of human right abuses occur with fairness and justice in time as to continue to allay the fears of Nigerians. More must be done to ensure the fusion of the military with civilians to enable the populace to see the military as partners in the Nigerian project and also build mutual trust with the same to further deepen the synergy. The military must not see CSO’s as enemies but partners, we do not need them to come out and flagrantly deny these allegations with illogical rhetoric but to check itself and purge its own systems of those who have vowed not to adhere to the rules of engagement as enshrined in the constitution of the ‘Federal’ Republic. The successes of the Military notwithstanding will be maintained when the Military points its searchlight on its men who would not do the right things, taking laws into their hands and bashing the hard work that seems to have been put in place to ensure its smooth running of its mandate as it concerns security and protection of our territorial integrity as a Nation. Just as the case of the crippled man that was brutalized for wearing a camouflage trouser, that kind of swift response with investigation and strict disciplinary measures must be sustained, this actions will build a support base for the military and will continue to bridge that gap that has been in existence from the days of Military dictatorship

Finally, the government must train, retrain and empower the police to take full responsibility for its job regarding civil matters, it is an aberration to see the military deployed as if they do not have a much bigger job of protecting our territorial integrity and keeping us safe, as I see more Military uniforms daily than that of the police. The State must wake up to its responsibilities before we begin to experience and witness more damning reports like this.

IMAGE CREDIT: Amnesty International 

Busayo Oluwadamilare Morakinyo is a Humanitarian and Refugee Expert and a Peace Scholar.

Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

“the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly”.

Community Town Hall meetings are a veritable forum the largest grassroots movement on accountability –  Follow the Money employ  to engage all stakeholders in leading conversation around specific project(s) – This time, the project was about N20m that was budgeted by the Ministry of Education for the provision and furnishing of two blocks of classrooms in Tongo 2 primary school. Present at this meeting held on February 16th at the Tongo community town hall meeting were; the representative of the district head, the representative of the Funa Kaye Local government chairman and the education ministry representative, group of APC supporters, the representation of the Nigerian Police force, the school headmasters and his teachers and some other numerous countless stakeholders in Gombe state.

30 minutes into Muazu Modu of Connected Development introduction of the project, it was clear that the community members were not aware that such funds had been allocated. According to the councilor, Ahmed Bello Tongo who represented the chairman of the Local government, “CODE and it’s FOLLOW THE MONEY team are the first to give Funakaye local Government and Tongo community information on N20 million earmarked for the construction of 2 blocks of classrooms and equipping of Tongo 2 Primary School 2016 appropriation”

It was further revealed to us by the Special Assistant to Honourable Yaya Bauchi, representing Gombe in Federal House of Assembly that the project is the constituency project of Honorable Yaya Bauchi and the said fund is not N20m but N18m. He further threatened that if Follow the Money should have such a town hall meeting in Gombe Central, the life of our representative(s) will be greatly endangered. His entourage, who largely occupied the town hall meeting also claimed that Follow The Money was sponsored by the PDP. 

Likewise, one of the participants, named Madaki, warned the Follow The Money team to make this town hall meeting the first and the last as he would not condone us bringing together the elders to discuss such a baseless information.

While the meeting was about to be distracted by the claims of the honorable stooges, a representative of the Nigeria Police had to douse the tension in the room by his words“I have been in this community for a very long time I know all your personal and political differences. Please put your personal and political differences aside. From my point of view and details explanation and evidence presented by the Project Assistant, this organization has no political motive and this is a developmental and welcome idea” said the  Police Officer

At the end of the meeting,  Yahaya Umar who is the district head and the community stated that  “the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly, and that with the information gotten, they will make sure the school is renovated, and that their children enjoys the teaching aids that comes with it.”.

A day after the meeting,  another SA of Hon Yaya Bauchi called our community team and  asked if it is a must to complete all the projects appropriated in the budget, citing the example that in 2015 appropriation there is a contract of 145 million in that community and it was not executed up to date… He further explained that the project is not yet awarded, explaining that Hon Yaya Bauchi himself wrote a letter himself to Minister of Budget and National Planning and that he was surprised that they responded that 50% of the project has been funded,  “I’m advising you, people, that you should find the project that will be funded from the source which is the Ministry of finance to the office of Accountant General before you organize  any townhall meeting” he further says.

Abubakar Muhammed, headmaster of the school later called to report that the Local Education Authority directed him to write a report and send it across to the State Universal Primary Education Board, so they can follow up on the project.

The legislative arm of the government is very important in a democratic system, as they are meant to represent their citizens, and enact laws that liberate citizens, but it can be depressing when the “representative of the people” would not inform their citizens on decisions they make on behalf of them, after all, it’s their constituency!

Read more about the campaign here

Towards Building a Community of Active Citizens in Nigeria

Towards Building a Community of Active Citizens in Nigeria

On 16th of February, YIAGA brought together youths from all the states in Nigeria and trained them on community organising which was aimed at building a community of active citizens who will take responsibility to organise their communities to identify their resources and put them to use to achieve the result they desire even under uncertain conditions.

I was part of this 3-days training that held on the 16th -18th of February 2017. The training focused on organisation as a leadership practice. “We will be doing something different within the next three days which will require you all to go beyond your comfort zone, you will be working as a team and please, you have to take the training with a beginner’s mind set.” Those were the words of Samson Itodo who is the Lead on the Not Too Young To Run campaign (NTYTR) in Nigeria. In his word, Samson also made a clear statement on the explaining “Theory of Change” when he said “In articulating the theory of change in organizing, one must first ask, why has there not been change over time on the issue you’re set to achieve” I said to myself, this is one of the most important questions to answer truthfully.

Emmanuel Njoku and Tunde Adegoke

NTYTR bill is a bill that has presently passed the 2nd reading in the National Assembly, it is a bill that seeks to increase the inclusion of youths in politics and governance. In Nigeria, 18 – 35 years is the youth age, and this age bracket makes up to 60% of the electorate. Also, it’s only from the age of 18 that any citizen of the country gets qualified to vote. There has been a long going argument that if a citizen at 18years is deemed old enough to vote, why can’t he equally be voted for, but presently, the law of the country won’t allow that. The NTYTR bill seeks to address this challenge to an extent by reducing the stipulated age limit for all elective positions in the country and allow for Independent Candidacy in elections. It is believed that this will further advance the development of the country if the bill succeeds. It’s noteworthy that African youths have been innovative, resilient and breaking grounds and their maker’s habit has wowed the world as they have consistently shown that taking responsibilities is not about age or experience.

The time to get the NTYTR bill signed into law is now since the bill has received some support from the Legislature, but the steps in getting a bill signed into law in Nigeria is not a battle for the fainthearted. As the bill has passed 2nd hearing, it has to pass through the state legislative as well and it has to get the support and approval of at least 2/3 of the state legislatures in all the 36 states of the country. Though the process is lengthy and complicated, it is believed that it will pull through before the end of this year.

In the three days training, we were grouped into five groups, with each focusing on different and specific areas of concentration or constituencies, but in all, towards organising and mobilising resources and people in support of the bill at the state level.

Team Synergy

In my group, we focused on Political Parties. We were trained on strategies on how to approach these people, convince them and how we can build a team of advocates at the state as if we are already on the project.

Through the process of the training, we were trained on what leadership is and how organising is a core part of leadership, we were made to realise that leadership has roots which are;

  • If I am not for myself, who am I (self),
  • When I am not for myself, what am I (others)
  • If not now, when? (action)

Also, one of the most important aspects of the training is the organising which is defined as an adaptive form of learning that enable the constituencies (the People) to turn its resources into POWER it needs to achieve its goals or the change it needs to see.

I was made to understand the importance of public narratives and how I can use my story to connect people to act by planning ahead and developing a strategy that will motivate people to act. In essence, what I learned here is more of how to use story-telling as a powerful tool for initiating change.  I realised I have a story and know how to turn it to motivate people to act through the course of the training.

Power is also a core part of the training where we are taught what power meant, it’s phases (Structure, Agenda, and Decision) and why power mapping is very important so as to be able to correlate interest and power in achieving meaningful and significant results.

Also, team formation was also detailed and we were taught to form a team who are bounded, stable and inter-independent and the steps in launching effective leadership team was discussed extensively too. I can say this is one of the most important session to me through the training. The 3 steps in launching effective leadership team is as below;

  • Shared purpose
  • Create Inter-dependent roles
  • Explicit ground rules

A good team must have all these steps for them to be a formidable and relevant team. Having seen some of these steps firsthand, I never knew there is a model (steps) to it. Thanks to YIAGA for the insight!

In all, organising is a major leadership skill and snowflake leadership model which allows for leadership to be distributed is what has been missing in Nigeria as a country and I look forward to more formidable team being formed through efforts of organisations like YIAGA and CODE as Follow the Money towards community building. Maybe one day, when more people become responsible and start acting, then we could have a country of our dream but it is not a battle of the fainthearted.

In conclusion, organising as a leadership form could be explained in the following context;

  1. Shared stories
  2. Relational commitment
  3. Clear structure
  4. Creative strategy and
  5. Effective action.

I look forward to seeing more leaders emerging from the training and I am strongly convinced that the NTYTR bill will become a reality in Nigeria as this will help in giving youth equal access to be voted for rather than voting alone and maybe one day, we might have a youth as the president, Senate president or House Speaker in Nigeria.

 

 

Calls to CSOs Coalition to Achieving Open Government Partnership in Nigeria

Calls to CSOs Coalition to Achieving Open Government Partnership in Nigeria

Connected Development [CODE] was invited to an Open Government Partnership (OGP) event organized by Budgit. The event brought together Civil Society Organizations (CSO) such as Public and Private Development Centre,  Institute of War and Peace Reporting, Network of Police Reforms in Nigeria, Dean Initiatives, Center for Democracy and Development amongst others to discuss the tools used by Budgit in 2016 towards advocating for OGP in Nigeria.

Stanley Achonu and Abayomi Akinbo of Budgit led the event, discussing the tools from FOIVault, PICC and Find a cop. FOI Vault is a repository of requested FOIs by credible and verifiable organizations to the Ministries, Agencies and Departments of the Nigerian Government.

Bearing in mind that a lot of my organizational work involves requesting for more information from the government through the use of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, I was able to see the potential of the tool as it allows for documentation of FOI requests and response from the government.

As such, I can visit the vault first before sending my next FOI to a ministry or other governmental institutions so as to be sure that someone else from another organization has not sent the same request and likely gotten an answer which may aid my work.  Also, it saves the concerned governmental agency from having to spend valuable time in dealing with a request to which it has devoted time to in the past, albeit to another organization and at the end, we can all synergise and work much more effectively.

picc.com.ng was also one of the presented tools which were used to document verified corruption cases against any Nigerian that has a case with the court of law in the country. As the Ministry of Justice does not have such electronic record, I think this could be a good repository for a background check on anyone intending to run for public office in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the last tool that was showcased is findacop.ng which is a simple web application that can be used to locate the nearest Police station in Nigeria. “We are not able to get enough data around this as the Nigeria Police Force is not ready to make things easier for us,” says Abayomi. As such,  at the moment, there is not much data on the platform.

The presentation was concise, interactive and engaging as it opened me up to new and innovative ways data can be made open and accessible to everyday users. The event eventually ended with a brainstorming session involving all the participants on how to improve the tools as well as how to make CSOs see value in these interventions towards achieving Open Governance Partnership in Nigeria.

Personally, I think collaboration and data sharing between civic organizations is key as this will enable us to build a formidable network of citizens who will have the much-needed information at their fingertips, making them well informed and able to engage the government at any level. This will, in turn, have a lasting impact on achieving good governance in Nigeria.

IMAGE CREDIT: CCHUB

 

Raising The Bar High for SDG4 in Nigeria

Raising The Bar High for SDG4 in Nigeria

It was a long week as we received an invitation from the Sustainable Development Goal Department of the Federal Ministry of Education (FME – SDGs Office) to witness the reviewing of the instrument for the monitoring of 2016 SDGs Projects in Nigeria.

We were invited to be an independent participator in the event, representing Civil Society Organization in the event owing to the fact that Education is one of our thematic areas.

As the lead investigator on Education for our Follow The Money project, it is a part of my responsibilities to be part of the event. On getting to the event centre, they just created a registration sheet to represent NGOs in which my name was the first on the list as they are not expecting more of Civic organisations.

In her introduction, Mrs AAA Liman stated that the essence of the event is to bring agencies and departments together to review the monitoring and evaluation instrument that has been in use by the SDGs in order to upgrade it to international standards after which she passed the baton to the Director of the Unit.

In her own words, the Director said that she has to be in the event since monitoring has been a thing of her heart as the motto of the Department is “Raising the Bar”. She gave a background to the present monitoring framework of the department and said it has been in existence since 2009 when it was first developed for monitoring of SDGs projects in Nigeria and further explained that they would love to review it so as to make it a tool that will be in tune with present happenings in the world.

On her endnote, she concluded by saying “our goal is to come out with an instrument that will meet international standards and can be used by all agencies and departments”.

In his word, Hamzat Lawal said this event will shape Education in Nigeria as the instruments will provide a framework for monitoring of the implementation of the Education funds meant for the schools in the grassroots and also, this will be a guide for other MDAs and also, it will be good for transparency and accountability in government projects in Nigeria.

The event lasted almost the whole day as each item and options were reviewed by all the agencies working on education SDGs in Nigeria. Some items stayed the same while significant others were reviewed thoroughly. After which the event finally came to an end.

I was awed by the action taken by the FME-SDGs as it shows how passionate some civil servants are with their job and the well being of the people they are working for given that the civil service space is filled with many misappropriations and negligence of work. Only if we can have more agencies like this in Nigeria, the government would function better and maybe corruption would be drastically reduced. These are my thoughts and I hope to see more of such happening in Nigeria.