] Watch] Civil Society That conference and our future (II)
ast week, this column focused on the presentation at the on going National Conference by Malam Nurudeen Lemu, a delegate representing the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, from Niger state. The young man in his thirties provided an interfaith perspective to the Conference and got a thunderous ovation. His message was refreshingly different and stood out from the pool of divisive statements being made by the demagogues among the delegates. Malam Nurudeen drew from the Charter of Madina, the first Islamic State during the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW which was a multi religious state that respected and protected the rights its non Muslim citizens. He said ‘as Muslim delegates, we come in brotherhood, as brothers and friends to solve our common problems and not as adversaries.’ Malam Nurudeen also highlighted a common trend among those who will exploit everything including religion to satisfy their own agenda. When he said ‘We come against the exploitation of religion and religious sentiments. We come against stereotyping, stigmatizing and dehumanizing of each other. We come against the use of religion as a political decoy and as a distraction from the critical things that bedevil our nation. He ended his speech with a much needed prayer for humanity. ‘I pray that at the end of this conference, we will all grow in our humanity and respect for each other.’
The interfaith perspective has the support of the pro democracy civil society organisations working on a common platform to address ‘the Critical things that bedevil our nation.’ They shared their own perspectives making it clear that the National Conference which was extracted out of an unwilling government must be used to address critical national issues. The CSOs said ‘ the decision to convene the National Conference was not an act of gratuitous charity on the part of a benevolent regime; but that it is rather a concession wrested from the hesitant hands of a regime facing increasing isolation and reduced popular acceptance.’ The timing of the conference was viewed by many saw as unsuitable and convened to satisfy a divisive agenda, coming on the heel of a hotly divisive centenary anniversary and on the eve of a general election that many citizens
approach with apprehension.
The CSOs however saw it as an opportunity for transformation by promoting their aspiration for national liberation, social emancipation, and fully participatory democratisation process.
Specifically, the CSOs want a comprehensive Bill of Rights that incorporates all known civil, political, socio-cultural and economic rights and which shall be consolidated into a single justiciable and enforceable chapter of the Nigeria Constitution. Other CSO demands are a social welfare package. Among them are:
-The adoption of a socioeconomic framework aimed at guaranteeing the basic minimum to every citizen, and prioritising an inclusive economic revival plan that will eradicate poverty, hunger, homelessness and joblessness in the society.
-A regime of fiscal federalism that encourages healthy competition amongst constituent units of the federation, while also ensuring that no section of the federation shall be left uncatered for.
-A genuinely mass participatory democratic polity that ensures the full involvement of citizens in decision making and implementation at all levels of government.
-A single citizenship of the Nigerian Federation for all citizens, with the only qualifying criteria for representation being agreed minimum residency status.
-Consensus on enforceable guiding principles for a comprehensive reform of the justice, security and law enforcement system, including a determination to expose and severely punish corruption.
-Open, unfettered discussions of all issues on the agenda of the National Conference in the full glare of Nigerian citizens.
-A National referendum as the only means for validating the resolutions of the National Conference.
While we were absorbing our approach to the Conference, two serious security issues- the bomb blast in Nyanya a suburb of Abuja and also in Borno occurred. It shocked all of us. We want the conference to make this a priority. Priscilla Achapa the Executive Director of Women Environment Project WEP spoke for civil society and we want the conference to address this. She highlighted the lack of value for human lives ‘as the government fails to act in the best interests of the people - rather it serve the elites and foreign interests while people continue to suffer and die.
Residents living in the suburb of Abuja woke up on April 14 2014 in search of their livelihood only to lose their lives in a bomb blast at the Bus Park Nyanya–Mararaba Road. At the last count seventy one people have lost their lives.
The rising spate of killings, aside from the Boko Haram insurgence in the North East since 2010 to date, is disturbing. In the first quarter of this year alone we have witnessed greater killings of innocent children in their school in Yobe, massacre of men and youth, women and children in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Zamfara states. The level of savagery that violent groups are visiting on innocent Nigerians is highly deplorable.
The State has the obligation to protect lives and properties of her citizenry, however the reverse is the case, as these killings are being politicised, ignored, the perpetrators are rarely punished and no one is held accountable. The government must respond adequately to this national crisis. Lives must be secured. What is a nation without its people? Given Nigeria’s apparent inability to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of these crimes, we make this urgent call
- International community to promptly step in and conduct independent investigations to ensure that these heinous crimes against innocent Nigerians are stopped and perpetrators are brought to law.
-The African Union (AU), even as Nigeria assumes its chairmanship for the Peace and Security, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council to assess immediately the conflict situation in Nigeria and provide full and effective support to end these acts of violence against civilians.
- The Federal Government to review it strategies and take more proactive steps in curbing the activities of this insurgency while respecting human rights.
- Lastly, we call on the President of the African First Ladies on Peace Mission, Dame Patience Jonathan, to as a matter of urgency address Nigerian women and children who have been victims of violent conflicts in Nigeria, who are in camps dying of cholera and other disease, without water, food, shelter and to
-- Immediately initiate plans for reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration of the displaced population.
-- We demand that immediate plans are put in place to send relief materials to those in displaced camps especially in Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Plateau States mostly women and children. We demand no less.