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.

CELEBRATING  WOMEN ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!

CELEBRATING WOMEN ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!

International Women’s day , March 8 is a day set aside to celebrate social, political, cultural,and economical achievement for women around the world. The theme for this year is women in the changing world of work, Planet 50:50 by 2030 while the goal is to ensure actors step up gender equality towards a planet where world of work works for all women. This requires that policies should be set in place to promote and protect women in their workplace and the economy at large, bridging gender gap and promoting gender parity.

To commemorate this year’s IWD, African Youth Initiative on Population, Health, and Development (AfrYPoD) organised an event co-sponsored by eight (8) other organisations including Connected Development (CODE). This event brought together people from different youth led and women centered organisations. The 3- hour long event was interesting, event filled and informative. It covered experience sharing from all the organisations present, organisations were asked to share experiences on how they have taken bold steps in helping women cater for the welfare as well as promoting women’s right.

Connected Development was not left out as we highlighted how we use our ‘Follow the Money project’ to track funds meant for rural communities, projects like-  the World bank funds for the Girl child education project in five northeastern states in Nigeria and the clean cook stove project, these projects were highlighted as they are gender specific.

The highlight of the event apart from the experience sharing was when Connected Development officially launched her report on “An examination of girls’ education in Nigeria and Follow the money 2016 report and Project Pink Blue’s Nigerian language translation of Breast cancer materials for women. Resolutions from participants include increased sensitization and drive advocacy for the domestication of Violence against person’s prohibition Act in states while promoting women empowerment.

I was particularly excited to have attended the event, seeing young, vibrant, and intelligent  women ready to take up challenging roles and working towards the actualization of planet 50:50. Moreso,  the men present pledged their support towards helping us achieve gender equality.

It was a rich, informative and engaging event  and I was particularly inspired to #BeBoldforChange and proud to be a woman.

 

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

Dare to be Bold for Change!

Dare to be Bold for Change!

March 8 steadily marks International Women’s Day, which is commemorated globally year after year. While the original focus of the celebration was a movement towards gender equality and women’s suffrage, it has since evolved to become much more than that.
It has become a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements and successes of women globally – as well as bringing awareness to the progresses they’ve managed to accomplish in various endeavors of life.
Still, I cannot help but wonder about the significance of this day – does it have any significance at all especially for women living in rural areas of Nigeria?
it is justly easy for women like me (as well as many others), who are living in the Urban areas to talk about the importance of International Women’s Day and how it brings awareness to our rights as citizens, and most importantly, as human beings; we still fail to realize that the majority of women, especially those living ‘back home’, do not have access to the same privileges, for they are denied even the most basic of human rights.

Let us begin with the 9.2billion naira approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the provision of 750,000 clean cook stoves and 18,000 wonder bags for rural women in Nigeria in November, 2014. I bet we all know that the World Health Organization estimates that 95,300 Nigerians especially women die of indoor air pollution yearly as a result of cooking using firewood. This was a wonderful project that will aid putting a stop to the depletion of forest resources caused by indiscriminate felling of trees as well as prevent women from dying of indoor pollution. The question however remains: how many of the supposedly rural women can say they have benefited from it? Indeed, lack of education is one of the greatest impediments to social and economic development, especially within the North East in Nigeria. And those women and girls who try to seek it face severe consequences, as is the case of the 276 secondary school girls who were abducted in Chibok by Boko Haram terrorist group. The Nigerian girl-child faces significant obstacles in accessing proper education because of inherent traditional and societal values placed on the boy-child over the girl-child. According to the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 2015, 40% of Nigerian children, aged 6 –11, do not attend any primary school with the Northern region of the country recording the lowest school attendance rate, especially for girls.

I personally applaud Connected Development (CODE) as they recognize the significance of women and girls, and have continuously channeled their work to empower local communities and alleviate the suffering of women. As at 2016 and through Follow The Money, CODE has impacted 26,811 rural lives especially women and children in ensuring that educational and healthcare appropriations meant for them are well spent. In being #BoldforChange, they conducted a research on Girls Education policies in Nigeria with focus on Northeast, this will amplify advocacy around girl child education in the north. They are currently tracking the implementation of WorldBank’s $100 million for the improvement of girl-child education in five northern states, namely, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Jigawa. CODE understands that investing in women and girls makes the communities healthier and safer thereby creating more opportunities across the board.

Happy International Women’s Day and dare to #BeBoldforChange by taking actions to empower women and girls around you and reminding yourself of the reality that we do not need to single out just one day in the commemoration but celebrate them every day.

 

Ijeoma Oforka is a Program Officer at Connected Development, with a background in Public Health. She is passionate about advocating for the plights and issues surrounding women and girls health and education. She tweets via @ijoforka

 

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.

 

 

WE SHOULD ALL BE ACTIVISTS…PART 2

WE SHOULD ALL BE ACTIVISTS…PART 2

I remember the first time i heard the word ACTIVISM- before i got admitted into the university and there was always some news on the television about one form of student activism or the other- either students protesting a lack of social amenities or hike in school fees. These protests were usually characterized by the carrying of placards, sticks, chanting student union songs and slogans etc.

Then came the era of labor unionism, which in another way defined activism for me and a lot of Nigerians as facing off with government and going on strikes.

The above mentioned examples and some others that easily come to mind give the impression that activism always has to be violent and angry. Indeed, there are times when one has to get angry enough about the situation to want to change things, to say enough is enough. Activism is however a lot more than that.

The term activism in itself is quite contentious and has been the source of many debates with different definitions from different points of view.

The Freedom of Association, in their book “Moments of Excess” give one of my best definitions of activism as “specializing in social change. Therefore, an activist is an expert of social change”

A popular definition of activism captures it as being “an engaged citizenry”. Meaning that activists are generally citizens who are concerned about and take steps to address issues of public concern. Any issue that affects public life should concern us all. Ergo, we should all be activists.

Here are a few important steps to becoming an active citizen:

  • Be knowledgeable about the issues – knowledge they say, is power and one can never underestimate the power that lies in being equipped with the right type and amount of information. The only way to engage effectively with the issues is by being properly informed. So, do your research, ask question and dig deep until you get all the answers!
  • Be ready to engage – it should not stop at being equipped with the right type and amount of knowledge alone. It is pointless if you have the information and you are not ready to put that knowledge to work; all that energy and effort put into acquiring it would have just been wasted if you do not enagage!
  • Find a space/niche – there may be that little voice in your head telling you that you are the only person alive on earth who is interested in bringing about social change. This is farthest from the truth. There are many others who are interested in the same issues as you and who are also equipped with the information you have. So, what gives you the extra edge? The answer is your niche (that space you have created for yourself, that people can identify you with). Don’t get me wrong – you do not have to start an organisation or movement or enterprise to create a niche for yourself – you can find an organisation or movement whose vision/mission/aspirations tie very closely to yours and join them or collaborate or even volunteer. Resist the temptation for quick glory. Rather, understand that you need time to learn and mature and a great way to do this is by learning from those who have been in the game longer than you and who have more experience.
  • Walk the talk and talk the walk – a lot of people will argue that we have too many talkers and very few doers. While i may have certain reservations about the generalization a lot of people accrue to this statement, it is not entirely false in itself. Oftentimes, we find out that we have so many people making so much noise about an issue, especially on social media but, when it gets down to the nitty gritty; to actually getting down to the real work of doing, only a few are left. True activists are known by their actions, not their words. It may be something as simple as stopping in front of a zebra crossing while others are driving past or stopping at a red light while other drivers zoom past or you may decide to be like Mahatma Gandhi and go on hunger strike as a way of disagreeing nonviolently with a popular opinion. Whatever way you choose, just make sure your actions speak for you and people can identify you as a real change maker.
  • Be authentic – a friend once told me that passion comes from authenticity and i find this to be very true. When your passion stems from a place that is very real, there is no limits to the impact and influence that you can have on people around you.

Tying all of this to the work we do at connected development, we may not take to the streets , carrying placards and chanting (we do not need to). But the sound of our activism echoes loud and clear. We are breeding a community of revolutionary individuals who see governance as a partnership between the governed and the governing; each playing his own part at ensuring a society where social justice and equity prevails. We are breeding a community of social change experts, a community of concerned citizens and this is essentially what activism is all about.
If you are ready to become an engaged citizen, you can join our platform on www.ifollowthemoney.org