] Watch] Civil So­ci­ety That con­fer­ence and our fu­ture (II)

Ha­jiya Bilk­isu

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -


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.

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