Over the course of the last 5 weeks, the Judicial Panels of Inquiry have revealed specific findings indicating a long history of police brutality in Nigeria that have left victims without justice and emboldened abusers in the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies. Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara States remain the only states yet to set up their Judicial Panels of Inquiry, as reported last week.
The Government has a responsibility to ensure that this process provides justice and yields tangible results by ensuring the full enforcement of the findings, decisions and recommendations of the Panels, providing adequate compensation to victims and truly ensuring critical police reforms. Yiaga Africa will continue to deploy independent observers to observe the proceedings of the Panels to provide information on the sittings. The independent observation seeks to ensure transparency, accountability and to provide information from the different states on the proceedings of the Panels.
As the Panels sit and receive petitions, Yiaga Africa, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and other civic actors will continue to monitor the Panels and follow through this process to provide information to the people and promote accountability.
1- Increase in the Number of Petitions Submitted Across States: This week’s observation of the panels show an increase in the number of petitions submitted. Data from the Panels show the following number of petitions submitted across the states: FCT – 200 petitions, Rivers State – 171 petitions, Anambra State – 150 petitions, Edo State – 140 petitions, Lagos – 146 petitions, Imo State – 80 petitions, Abia State – 75 petitions, Akwa Ibom State
– 92 petitions, Ekiti – 80 petitions, Katsina State – 61 Petitions, Plateau State – 58 petitions, Cross River – 54 petitions, Ogun State – 102 petitions, Oyo State – 50 petitions, Enugu State – 65 petitions, Benue State – 28 petitions, Ondo State – 26 petitions, Osun State – 24 petitions, Bayelsa State – 20 petitions, Niger State – 18 petitions, Kwara State
– 21 petitions, Nasarawa State – 16 petitions, Delta State – 15 Petitions, Ebonyi State – 37 petitions, Taraba State – 11 petitions, Adamawa state – 5 petitions, Gombe State – 3 petitions, Bauchi State – 4 petitions.
2. Victims Constitute 58% of Witnesses Approaching Panels of Inquiry for Justice Across the States: Reports from the Yiaga Africa monitors show that so far, 58% of witnesses that have made submissions are victims of police brutality; 26% are family members of victims of police brutality; 9.7% were police/security agencies; 3.3% were government representatives; while 3% fall into other categories. Yiaga Africa’s findings also reveal that due to the volume of petitions received by the Panels in some states, hearings/sitting last between 1 hour and 10 hours.
3- More Evidence Presented Across Panels of Inquiry: In Rivers State for instance, a stray bullet shot by a SARS officer that killed a 3-day old baby was presented. The stray bullet had landed into the house of the Petitioner piercing into the umbilical cord of his 3-day old baby which led to her death. Also in Rivers State, medical reports and pictures of a 14year old killed by stray bullets of SARS officers were presented. Other evidence presented to
the Panels across the states include:
- Picture evidence of a bullet hole on the right shoulder of a petitioner;
- Picture evidence of a victim killed by SARS accompanied by an autopsy report and
death certificate in Rivers State;
- Receipts of a petitioner’s impounded car by the police, car ownership document and
corroborating pictures of physical assault by the police and a medical report;
- A candy presented by a petitioner which he claimed SARS operatives had tagged as a
“hard drug” and beaten him to stupor while collecting N350,000 from him;
- A letter of response from the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Afe Babalola Multi
System Hospital in Ekiti State;
- Pictures of a victim showing bullet holes on their back and a death certificate
confirming the death by gunshot in Nasarawa State;
- Pictures and affidavits of police brutality;
Pictures of a victim killed as a result of police brutality;
- Hard evidences of bullets, cartridges and weapons used by police officers;
A criminal charge sheet and picture evidences of police brutality;
- A victim’s kidney damaged by a gunshot with pictures and supporting documents;
Picture evidence of gunshot hole in the head, a medical report from Reddington Hospital
and a court ruling awarding the petitioner the sum of N500,000 as damages to be
paid by police was presented in Lagos State;
- Pictures of scars from torture by SARS officers;
- Victim’s gunshot wound;
- Court order demanding SARS officers to release the Complainant’s cows; and Receipts of hospital payments and hospital registration cards by victims.
These were some of the evidence presented before the Panels in Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Lagos, Ekiti, Osun, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Niger, and Katsina.
4- Some support to the Victims of Police Brutality: The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Ebonyi and Enugu committed to provide free legal representation for victims of police brutality. This is in addition to the commitment of the NBA in other states mentioned in previous reports (see Weekly Update No. 4). We encourage the National NBA to make this a standing order to provide free legal representation for victims of police brutality in all states.
Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria note and recommend the following::
1- Full Establishment and Commencement of Sittings in all States: The failure to establish the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry in Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara States and the delay in the commencement of sittings in Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Kogi, Ondo and Taraba States in spite of the directive from the National Economic Council (NEC) continues to undermine government’s intent to ensure that citizens get
justice from the illegal actions of police officers.
2- Cases Already Instituted in Court Cannot be Heard by the Judicial Panels: Yiaga Africa and EiE note that matters that are currently before the courts cannot be heard by the Judicial Panels of Inquiry as witnessed in some states. This is because the act of the Judicial Panel entertaining such cases is objectionable and seen as interfering in an ongoing court process and the functions of the Court. While encouraging Petitioners to only present cases of police brutality to the Panels that are not in court, it is important to note that this is an indication of citizens losing faith in court processes that are so prolonged, that they fear they may never receive justice.
3- The Need for Extension of Time for Submission of Petitions: Edo and Plateau State have closed receipt of petitions and from other states are set to close the receipt of petitions. Yiaga Africa and EiE calls on different states to give additional time to citizens to present their petitions to ensure more people are given the opportunity to seek justice for abuse suffered. In addition, we note that the lifespan of the panels require a thorough investigation and thereby also urge citizens to submit their petitions in a timely manner to allow for thorough investigation of all the petitions submitted in each state.
4- Compliance by the Police/Defunct SARS Officers to Panels’ Invitation and Requests: As noted in previous reports, the non-appearance by the Nigeria Police Force and the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) in some states is a threat to the work of the Panels and an abuse of the process. We recommend that subpoenas be issued to respondents to ensure their appearance at the Panels of Inquiry. We also call on the Nigeria Police Force to ensure their officers are present to defend themselves before the panels. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has a duty to ensure officers comply as part of his commitment to police reform and justice for victims of police brutality. The
non-compliance with invitations to the Panels should be interpreted as an admission of guilt and the continued silence by the IGP on this issue undermines the process and calls the government’s intent to question.
Cynthia Mbamalu ‘Yemi Adamolekun
Yiaga Africa Enough is Enough
Nigeria’s 21 years of democracy was tested with the conduct of last year’s 2019 general elections. The elections presented an opportunity for Nigeria to consolidate on the gains of the 2015 elections and deepen her democratic transition, but the polls substantially failed to do so. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) introduced reforms to deepen electoral integrity and citizen participation before the elections, yet the elections were fraught with the same shortcomings that marred previous national elections in Nigeria. As in past elections, INEC’s logistical challenges coupled with misconduct on the part of political parties and candidates undermined the elections‘ integrity. Not to mention the assault on voting rights by desperate politicians who recruited thugs and security agencies for voter suppression. The judiciary was no bystander. In most cases, it determined the final vote by substituting justice for legal technicalities with its logic of constitutional finality. The Supreme Court suffered a reputational setback when it declared a candidate who came fourth in an election the winner, despite computational inaccuracies and disputed results from polling units where elections did not hold.
The landscape for electoral reform looks promising. Over ten proposed electoral amendment bills are under consideration at the National Assembly. Although these bills are at different stages of the legislative process, they contain proposals that can potentially fix Nigeria’s pressing electoral challenges, especially the predatory behavior of the political class. The bills include proposed amendments that promote the independence and impartiality of INEC by strengthening the legality of INEC regulations, guidelines, and manuals and prohibiting the employment or appointment of members of political parties into INEC. Also contained in the bills are proposals for electronic voting and transmission of election results. Comprehensive amendments were proposed to Section 87 of the Electoral Act on the nomination of candidates. They introduce new procedures for direct and indirect primaries and provide thresholds for party nomination fees. It restricts parties to the qualification criteria fixed by the 1999 Constitution as amended for elective offices, thereby stripping parties of the power to introduce additional measures often used to disqualify unfavoured candidates.
Recently, INEC released its agenda on electoral reform. The Commission is proposing amendments to strengthen the electoral Commission’s financial autonomy, confer power on INEC to suspend elections under certain circumstances, and the power to disqualify candidates. Other proposals include new timelines for campaigns and candidate nomination, review of election results declared under duress, diaspora voting, and improved oversight on political parties, amongst others. Civil society groups have also proposed amendments to the electoral legal framework. Signals from the National Assembly thus far shows that the electoral amendment process may be concluded by 2021.
A cost-benefit analysis of public expenditure on elections is an essential component of the electoral reform agenda. This analysis is highly recommended given the country’s economic recession due to bad economic choices, disruptions in public finance, and negative externalities. Political scientists will argue that the high costs of elections are an investment in democracy; therefore, countries should earmark adequate resources for election conduct. This seems like a plausible argument, especially for nations still evolving with a democratic culture. But what happens to equity and efficiency? What is the benefit of expending scarce resources on elections that fail to maximize utility or promote happiness for the greatest number in society, or elections that yield just outcomes?
Nigeria spent N139 Billion (N1,893 or $9 cost per voter) for the 2011 elections; N116.3 Billion (N1,691 or $8.5 cost per voter) for the 2015 elections; and N189.2 Billion (N2,249 $6.24 cost per voter) for the 2019 elections. All three elections recorded a poor turnout of voters. In Nigeria, the law compels the electoral Commission to use the voter register as a basis for election planning as against the figures for collected Permanent Voters Card (PVC). In the 2019 elections, INEC printed over 427.5 million ballot papers (of currency quality) for 80 million registered voters in the six scheduled elections. Less than 30 million ballots were used in the elections because only 35 percent of registered voters showed up to vote. Billions of Naira went to waste due to a large number of unused ballots papers. These scarce resources plowed to produce the unused ballot papers would have been allocated to health, education, or jobs given Nigeria’s place as the world’s poverty capital. Efficient allocation of scarce resources should be a priority agenda for reformers of our electoral process. This should encompass a clear strategy for reversing the deeply entrenched culture of waste in public finance management.
No doubt, the current proposed amendments can foster popular sovereignty. Still, it is uncertain whether the ruling political class will pass these laws, given the potential of reforms to limit future chances of electoral victory. The apparent assumption is that most politicians will be reluctant to legislate themselves out of office. Therefore, they employ diverse tactics to dictate the pace and influence the outcome of reform efforts, leaving society to manage the tensions between individual and collective interests.
A just society is one that places the maximization of happiness as a key basis for decision-making. Moral decision making should be premised on maximizing the total happiness of members of society and advancing the common good, not just the interests of a few. As legislators consider decisions on electoral reforms within the ramifications of options available to them, they should be guided to choose options that serve the common good. In other words, in the spirit of democracy, they should pass electoral amendments that promote the common good of the Nigerian majority, in essence, the people and not the political class. After all, political authority is expected to serve the interests of the people, not individual interests. As Xunsi puts it, ‘Heaven did not create the people for the sake of the Lord, heaven established the Lord for the sake of the people.’ If an electoral amendment reflects the aggregate of the greater good, it indicates its responsiveness to the will and aspirations of the people. Suffices to say, the greater the number of citizens who participate in designing a new electoral legal framework, the greater our chances of producing just outcomes and advancing the common good.
Citizens bear the burden to hold the ruling political elite to higher standards. Electoral policies should place a premium on moral principles, ethics, and maximization of happiness. The 9th National Assembly will be judged by the extent to which the proposed electoral amendments promote happiness for the greater number and not just the political elites. Any piece of electoral legislation that will not guarantee the people’s participation, protect the sanctity of the vote or advance electoral justice may not serve the common good. Suffice to say that there’s nothing special about the ongoing electoral reform process if it does not yield the greater good for the greater number, instead of yielding the greater good for the one percent who control political power.
Samson Itodo is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. He is an elections and constitution building enthusiast. He serves as Executive Director of Yiaga Africa and the Convener of the Not Too Young To Run movement. Send comments and feedback to email@example.com. He tweets @DSamsonItodo
Fixing Nigerian Elections: The Imperative and Substance of Electoral Reforms
- The Time for Electoral Reform is Now
- Fixing Nigerian Elections: The Substance of Electoral Reforms
- E-Balloting and Ending electoral Impunity Paramount to Electoral Reform – Stakeholders opinion
- Key lessons from recent elections and agenda for electoral reform
- Citizens’ Speak on electoral reform
Report of a live TV and Virtual Citizens Townhall on Electoral Reforms
Weekly Updates on the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 4
16th – 21st November 2020
With the establishment of State Judicial Panels of Inquiry in response to one of the demands of the #EndSARS protest, Yiaga Africa deployed monitors to the FCT and 27 of the 29 States with Panels currently established. While not all states have established Panels and some states are more active than others in sitting and responding to petitions, it is important the Government is seen to be sincere in its commitment to ensuring justice for victims of police brutality and extra-judicial killings through its actions and media engagements. Nigerians deserve a process that inspires confidence in the Government’s commitment to justice for victims, thus dismissive statements and actions that seem to suppress the voice of citizens must not occur as they undermine the work of the Judicial Panels.
As the Panels sit and receive petitions, Yiaga Africa, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and other civic actors will continue to monitor the Panels and follow through this process to provide information to the people and promote accountability.
Reports from the Yiaga Africa monitors from their observation of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry revealed:
1- Video Evidence Confirms Lekki Shootings as Panels Receive more Evidence: On Saturday, 21st November 2020, a month after the shooting of peaceful protesters, video evidence presented at the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry confirmed the presence of the military at the toll gate and the shooting of peaceful protesters. This was in addition to the samples of bullets used by the Nigerian Army presented in the previous week.
Other evidence presented before state panel’s this week include:
– Medical reports, pictures and death certificate of a victim shot by police officers presented by the victim’s wife;
– Pictures of the bodies of some victims of police brutality;
– Photocopies of the hospital card of a victim after he was tortured by SARS officers;
– A victim showing scars from hot iron burns by SARS officers and another showing scar from hot iron burns and marks from a rope used to hang him in the air while being tortured by SARS officers;
– Documents showing the list of detained people on a particular date;
– Bail bonds and statements by victims submitted by the police;
– Photograph, video clip and funeral invite of a victim;
– Photographs of SARS officers who brutalised their victims. One officer threw a victim from a two-storey building, causing him to lose the use of his legs. The victim gave his testimony in his wheelchair.
– Letters/petitions to Commissioners of Police for harassment and threat to life by police officers;
– A book written by a victim chronicling his torture for 8 months in the hands of SARS officers presented by his son to the Panel because the victim went missing after the book was written and he was supposed to appear before the National Assembly to testify on his petition in 2014 when he went missing.
These amongst other evidence were presented in Lagos, Imo, Anambra, Abia, Ekiti, Niger, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Ebonyi and Edo state judicial panels. This is in addition to the evidence presented to the Panels in the previous weeks (See Weekly Updates on the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – Nos. 2 & 3).
2- Anambra State Leads on the Number of Petitions Submitted: This weeks observation of the panels show an increase in the number of petitions submitted. Data from the panels shows the following number of petitions submitted across the states: Anambra State – 150 petitions, Akwa Ibom – 82 petitions, Edo state – 63 petitions, Oyo State – 50 petitions, Cross River – 54 petitions, Abia State – 44 petitions, Plateau State – 40 petitions, Ondo State – 24 petitions, Osun State – 24 petitions, Niger State – 18 petitions, Kwara State – 18 petitions, Bayelsa State – 20 petitions, Katsina State – 100 petitions, Ebonyi State – 15 petitions, Gombe State – 3 petitions, Enugu State – 30 petitions, Benue – 28 petitions, Lagos – 110 petitions, Taraba State – 11 petitions, Nasarawa State – 16 petitions, Adamawa state – 4 petitions, Ekiti – 65 petitions.
3. More Victims Approach the Panels for Justice: Reports from the Yiaga Africa monitors shows that so far, 44.7% of witnesses that have made submissions are victims of police brutality; 26.3% are family members of victims of police brutality; 13.2% were police/security agencies; 7.9% were government representatives; 2.6% were victims from the #EndSARS protest while 5.3% fall into other categories. Yiaga Africa’s findings also reveal that 29.5% of the oral presentations of petitions by victims of police brutality before the Panel were by women and 34.6% of the oral presentations of petitions by youth.
4.More Support offered to Victims of Police Brutality: The chairman of the Kwara State Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), recognizing the challenges of some of the victims of police brutality, stated that a help desk for citizens has been created by the Kwara State NBA to provide victims with lawyers to represent them at the Panel and provide legal counsel at no cost. This is similar to the commitment of the Ogun State NBA to provide support to
victims of police brutality. The Youth representatives on the Anambra Panel also called on the Anambra NBA to publicize the list of their human rights committee to provide support to victims of police brutality who cannot afford legal services.
5.Judicial Panels of Inquiry Missing in Seven (7) States: Five (5) weeks after the directive for the immediate establishment of state-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extrajudicial killings, Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and the Zamfara States are yet to set up their panels.
6.Media Presence at the Panels: So far, media reporters were present to cover some days of the sitting of the Panels in Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Kwara, Niger, Plateau and Adamawa States. For example, ARISETV has periodically covered the Lagos Judicial Panel live.
Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria note and recommend the following:
1- Compliance by the Police/Defunct SARS Officers to Panels Invitation: The non-appearance by the Nigeria Police Force and the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) in Anambra and Akwa Ibom States cast doubts on the panels’ ability to secure justice for victims of police brutality. We recommend that subpoena be issued to respondents to ensure their appearance at the Panels of Inquiry. We also call on the Nigeria Police Force to ensure their officers are present to defend themselves before the panels. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has a duty to ensure officers comply as part of his commitment to police reform and justice for victims of police brutality. The non compliance with invitations to the Panels should be interpreted as an admission of guilt and the continued silence by the IGP on this issue undermines the process and calls the government’s intent to question.
2. Inadequate Information on the Composition of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry: Information on the composition of the Panels of Inquiry has remained shrouded in secrecy. There is little or no information about the members of the panels apart from their names. In Abia State, 5 new members were added to the panel, while in Anambra State, there have been allegations that political appointees to the Governor, William Obiano, are members of the Panel. We recommend that the Attorney General of each state should immediately release the names, profiles and disaggregated data on the membership of the established Panels.
3. Independence of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry: We note with concern the indefinite adjournment of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Anambra State over ‘logistics’ issues, on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, which resulted in the inability of the Panel to sit on Thursday November 19, 2020, and this may affect the sitting of the Panel on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. To avoid the challenge in Anambra, we call on both the Federal and State Government to provide adequate resources to the Panels to enable the Panels effectively carry out its assignment without interference from the other arms of government. This will ensure the independence of these Panels and build public trust in the process.
4- Timely Commencement of Sitting and Delays in Responses to Petitions: Reports from the monitors indicate that sittings do not start at the advertised time. Taking into consideration the duration of 6 months in which each panel is expected to conclude the hearing and submit reports and recommendations, we note that the frequent adjournment of cases may hamper the process of justice. Additionally, the delays in responding to petitions especially by counsels to the Police in Anambra and Cross River States contribute to further delays in conducting sittings and panel hearings. We recommend that the Panels provide the respondents with copies of the petitions in a
timely manner to prevent further delays in responding to them. We call on the Panels to expedite hearings in order to ensure justice for the victims of police brutality.
Cynthia Mbamalu ‘Yemi Adamolekun
Yiaga Africa Enough is Enough (EiE)
In July 2020, The Guardian, in an article predicted that protests were set to surge globally as COVID-19 drives unrest as “the economic impact of coronavirus is a “tinderbox” that will drive civil unrest and instability in developing countries in the second half of 2020…” the article added that, “the highest risk countries facing a “perfect storm”, where protests driven by the pandemic’s economic fallout are likely to inflame existing grievances, include Nigeria, Iran, Bangladesh, Algeria and Ethiopia.”
While the predictions did come true, no one predicted the scale and level of organizing witnessed as a result of the #EndSARS protests that started in October 8, 2020 in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city and spread across the country like wildfire. The last time Nigeria witnessed such protests was probably in 1978, when Nigerian students staged a protest (Ali Must Go) which, till today, remains the mother of all student protests in Nigeria. It was a nationwide agitation that brought the National Union of Nigeria Students (NUNS) into an open confrontation with the Military government of Olusegun Obasanjo and the stern looking men of the Nigerian Army.
The #EndSARS Movement has been considered the most organic and largest citizen protests in Nigeria’s 4th Republic. Comparisons have been drawn to the #LekkiMassacre and the ‘Ali Must Go’ protests and raised the question on ‘what next?’ The protests began, first in Lagos and spread across various cities, after a video allegedly showing a SARS operative killing a man went viral. Reuters reports that the situation on the ground has turned into “some of the worst street violence the country has seen since the end of military rule in 1999”.
Following peaceful protests for 12 days across the country – in an affirmation of young citizens democratic and constitutional right to peaceful assembly as well as a freedom of association – there were loud calls from various quarters for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation in hopes of reaffirming citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly and assuring protesters of governments commitment towards meeting their demands.
The statement by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 22nd October, 2020, instead stated that “In the circumstances, I would like to appeal to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful, and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy. For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated.”
Street protests were halted in Nigeria following the President’s address to the nation; however, the Movement continues to adapt their mode of engagement in order to press home their demands.
These adaptations are beginning to manifest in states such as Lagos where citizens who are not able to protest peacefully like they did for 12 days have resorted to messaging using creative signs that ensure the message towards ending police brutality remains in the minds of the citizens and security agencies as they commute to work in the city’s notorious traffic jams. Similar signs have also been spotted in Enugu, in the Eastern region of the county.
Protesters in Jos, Plateau State embarked on door-to-door civic education campaigns with handbills on how citizens can engage and hold the government accountable despite the government’s claim that all the demands of the protesters have been met.
In order to move the #EndSARS Movement from protests to power, it is imperative to learn lessons from previous (and current protests) that have been able to move from protests to power. The calming of a protest should not be treated as an end-point but rather a new beginning.
Nigeria has been an unbroken democracy for the past 21 years but as the #EndSARS Movement has shown, democracy does not always provide development for its citizens. The protest which were met with state violence, currently show every sign of morphing into something more — something that reaches for the reform of the political system itself, that improves its capacity for producing leaders fit for the 21st century and remake the country for human flourishing.
In Hong Kong for instance, protests have been ongoing since June 2019. The lessons primarily from the Hong Kong Protests are an adaptation of Bruce Lee’s famous quote to be “formless, shapeless, like water”.
The Hong Kong protests occupied the city’s main thoroughfares for 79 days in the hope that the disruption would force the government to the negotiating table. The government refused to budge, and the street occupation protests ended.
The Hong Kong protests, provides a striking contemporary comparison to the #EndSARS especially as both Movements are leaderless. Mark Amaza argues that the “refusal of the protesters to back down has not been the only source of frustration for government – it is also the fact that the protests do not have any visible leaders as the movement employed a uniquely leaderless strategy. Again, this is not without reason as doing so protects those who would have been leaders from possible intimidation and harassment from the government and its agents. Not only that, it also protects the integrity of the movement by preventing the possibility of persons hijacking the movement for pecuniary gains and their political ambitions”.
A deeper question revolves around what happens when protests die down, or in other words – what next for #EndSARS? Richard Young makes the point that, “It is difficult not to be moved by what young activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere have achieved in recent months. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is when the crowds eventually go home that a lot of the really decisive politics and power-broking happens. The post-protest moment may not be as dramatic in media terms as the heat of a large-scale demonstration, but it is of vital importance in influencing whether protests are ultimately meaningful – and whether their impact is positive or less benign for democracy”.
The #EndSARS Movement will need to re-think its strategies and fine tune its methods such as engaging with the Judicial Panels of Inquiry, providing legal support to protesters who have been arrested, harassed and targeted, increased civic education, and joining political parties towards ensuring that this period is only a preparation for the beginning of a new phase of political engagement.
As Bruce Lee said, “Water can flow, or it can crash!”
Ibrahim Faruk is a Program Manager with Yiaga Africa’s Governance and Development Program and is a member of the Leadership and Strategy Team of the Not Too Young To Run Movement. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, and tweets @IbrhmFaruk
‘‘We did it. We did it, Joe’, the new Vice-President-elect of the United States of America, Kamala Harris was captured in a viral video saying to the President-elect, Joe Biden over a telephone conversation, just moments after reaching the mandatory 270 electoral votes mark. It was the evening they officially won the United States presidential election. Her brown skin blended with her green tracksuit, black sunglasses reflected the sun, and her smile grew wider and wider as she spoke.
Every gender advocate and supporter of women representation could barely contain the excitement of having the very first female Vice President of the United States. The 56-year old former United States of American Senator has a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. A woman; a Black woman was going to be America’s Vice President – the highest position to be held by a woman in the United States. At last, here is a United States leader who was a microcosm of the gender representation that has always been craved for.
As a matter of fact, political analysts have argued that the moment it was obvious that Joe Biden’s running mate was a woman, and not just any woman, but one who has actively made her imprint on politics, the Democrats’ support across the United States and some part of the world erupted and spread like the good news of their emergence. This indeed made people rooted for both of them even more.
From then on, it became a personal journey. The gush of excitement amidst hysteria was laced with huge optimism as results of the US elections trickled-in. Alas, history was made!
The presence of women in leadership positions mostly brought criticisms about their looks, marital life, and previous challenges amongst other things that had nothing to do with their competence, character or capacity. However, having watched Harris at Senate hearings; the way she challenges ideas and cross-examines them, gave important consolation, there was no doubt about capability. Thus, there is optimism that she would bring that energy to her position as Vice President.
It is uncommon to see female leaders around the world. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the President of Argentina, and Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, are some of the few female leaders in the world, and they have continuously demonstrated phenomenal leadership in their various countries. However, the only female leader Africans have had is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the President of Liberia.
In Nigeria, only 6 women have emerged as Deputy Governors, since 1999. Currently, only Enugu, Kaduna and Rivers States have female Deputy Governors. Statistics show that there is only 6.7% female representation in elective and appointive positions at the national level. We have always been a country that looks up to the United States; now we hope that Nigeria emulates the United States. It is 2020, 21 years since our uninterrupted democracy, and the only female Governor Nigeria ever had, served for 3 months. Dame Virginia Etiaba was sworn-in as the Governor of Anambra State after the impeachment of Peter Obi, by the state legislature for alleged gross misconduct. However, she transferred her powers back to Obi three months later when an appeal court nullified the impeachment. This is no doubt the closest a female has come to an executive echelon.
Sadly, the patriarchal nature of African societies scarcely makes women aspire to leadership roles. However, the world is evolving rapidly, and Civil Society organizations like Yiaga Africa, TechHerNG amongst others are focusing on changing that mindset. This is why the emergence of Kamala Harris as Vice President is very instrumental at this point. It took America 232 years since their independence, and 100 years since women got the rights to vote, to have a female Vice President. Let us hope it does not take Nigeria, and any other countries that long.
One would say that typically, Harris went for the subordinate position, but it’s a start. It is America, and we needed to start somewhere. While it is 2020, and the idea of a ‘first Black’ or ‘first female’ anything is a bit disappointing, you will agree that it is fantastic that Kamala Harris is both. Any Black female can now look at her and derive inspiration of leadership. In Kamala Harris’ own words, ‘‘While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,’’ and we hope so.
Chinemerem is a Community Organiser and Communication Assistant at Yiaga Africa
She tweets at @mererah
Police brutality remains a fundamental human rights issue which requires the state’s commitment to concrete actions that ensure justice for citizens who have suffered different forms of brutality/violation. The setup of Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the states was a response to one of the #EndSARS protest demands for an end to police brutality and a system that ensures a process of healing and justice for victims when every indicted officer of the law is held accountable for their crimes. Yiaga Africa has deployed citizens monitors to track the proceedings of the panels. Observations from the Judicial Panel of Inquiry revealed:
1- Low Representation of Women and Youth: Lagos was the first state to set-up a Panel and commence sitting. In the week under review, Bauchi and Oyo set-up and inaugurated their panels making it a total of 29 states and the FCT with a Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up to receive petitions on police brutality and related matters. Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and the Zamfara States are yet to set-up their Panels of Inquiry. With regards to composition, a total of 263 identified members are on the panel across the states with only 22.8% (60) women and 18.6% (49) youth.
2- Anambra State Leads on the Number of Petitions Submitted: During the week under review, states received petitions as follows: Abia State – 32 petitions; Akwa Ibom – 16 petitions; Ebonyi State – 20 petitions; Taraba State – 11 petitions; Nasarawa State – 16 petitions; Enugu State – 58 petitions; Imo State – 2 petitions; Anambra – 114 petitions.
3- More Victims Approach the Panels for Justice: Reports from the Yiaga Africa monitors shows that so far, 28.6% of witnesses that have made submissions are victims of police brutality; 21.4% are family members of victims of police brutality; 14.2% were police/security agencies; 14.2% were government representatives; 7.1% were victims from the #EndSARS protest while 14.5% fall into other categories.
4- Evidence provided to support petitions: So far evidence received by the panels include; pictures and video footage of victims of police brutality showing the victims beaten and with bruises, a car riddled with bullets by the Police, photocopies of car documents of a police officer’s car burnt and of another officer’s car destroyed within the police station by supposed hoodlums, pictures of a burnt truck by supposed hoodlums, samples of bullets used by the Nigerian Army and a flash drive containing video clips of the Lekki shooting.
5. Panels Encourage Youth Reps to be Confident in the Process and Petitioners to Trust the Process: The ongoing attacks, intimidation and freezing of accounts of young people who were part of the #EndSARS protests have raised major concerns about the government’s sincerity in ensuring justice for victims. In Anambra, one of the youth representatives, Chukwuka Osonwa, voiced his concerns about the level of intimidation and the freezing of accounts of some of his colleagues on the Lagos Panel. The Chair of the Panel, Hon. Justice Vero Ngozi Umeh (Rtd), noted that she has seen the media reports and while no member of the Anambra Panel was affected, she encouraged them to remain confident in the process as she will also work with the Governor of the state to ensure members of the #EndSARS protests were not victimised. Similarly, the Chair of the Panels in Ekiti and Osun encouraged citizens to approach the Panels without fear and for petitioners to follow through with their petitions as some petitioners submitted petitions and were not present to speak for fear of reprisal. In Lagos, the two youth representatives returned to the Panel sittings on Saturday, Nov 14th to ensure a quorum, issuing a statement on their rationale.
Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria recommends the following:
1- The Federal and State Governments Refrain from the Continuous Attacks and Harassment of Members of the #EndSARS Movement: We note with concern the continuous attacks, harassment and clampdowns on some #EndSARS protesters, some of whom are serving on the Panels. In the previous reporting week, this was reported with respect to the freezing of the account of a youth representative on the Lagos Panel. Similarly, this week, it was reported that young citizens in Osun State were arrested for participating peacefully in the #EndSARS protests. Government has continued to demonstrate that its more interested in clamping down on fundamental rights, rather than addressing the critical issues of citizen engagement and police reform, which undermines the Judicial Panels. This does not endear the government to the citizens and should stop.
2- Timely Establishment, Inauguration of Representative Panels, Commencement of Sitting of Panels with Sufficient Time for Submissions: The delay in the establishment of Panels in 7 states, 4 weeks after the directive will present a challenge for the Panels to conduct their assignment in a timely fashion. The states where Panels have not been set up should immediately establish and inaugurate their Panels and ensure better representation of women and youth on the panels. In addition, there is a need for all states to commence their proceedings/sittings in order to investigate complaints of police brutality or related extrajudicial killings in their states in a timely fashion. The time frame for these panels is 6 months and some states like Kwara, Ondo, Enugu & Ekiti have their deadlines within a month of inauguration. We strongly recommend that adequate time is given for victims to submit their petitions.
3- Create Public-Facing Channels to Promote Participation and Transparency: We note and commend the Panels in Kwara, Ogun and the Lagos States as well as the National Human Rights Commission Panel in FCT for deploying technology to promote participation and transparency via public-facing channels and call on other state Panels to do the same. This will further promote transparency and build confidence in the process.
Cynthia Mbamalu ‘Yemi Adamolekun
Yiaga Africa Enough Is Enough
The undersigned coalition of Civil Society Organisations working to promote democracy, human rights and accountable governance hereby express grave concerns about the rise in the level of attacks targeted at human rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners especially since the start of the #EndSARS protests.
Despite the local and global condemnations, which have trailed the death of protesters as a result of extrajudicial killings by security forces and the activities of sponsored non-state elements, it is worrisome that there has been no remorse on the part of those perpetrating these atrocities. This Coalition is aware that the Nigerian authorities have stepped up measures to clamp down on individuals, organisations and corporate bodies alleged to be the masterminds of the protests.
For the avoidance of doubt, this Coalition is of the view that the #EndSARS protests, which gripped the country in the last few weeks, focused on the legitimate demands of the Nigerian youth for an end to police brutality and other dimensions of human rights abuses. Unfortunately, instead of focusing squarely on the necessary administrative reforms to meet the short and long term demands of the protesters, the authorities have begun resorting to underhand tactics to coerce and clamp down rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners and other voices of dissent calling for systemic reforms, which will promote good governance. This includes the government’s inaction in responding to the direct threats issued against human rights organisations by non-state elements with pro-government objectives. At the last count, this Coalition has documented several patently illegal steps taken by the government, which clearly infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.
Increasingly, protest organisers are being intimidated and coerced by various state institutions. There have also been situations in which travel bans, which have no basis in the rule of law, have been slammed on individuals for their alleged roles in the #EndSARS protests. Our Coalition strongly condemns the resort to acts of intimidation, profiling and coercion of citizens who have done no wrong. We have no doubt that the actions of the government constitute a serious attack on freedom of expression, which is a constitutionally guaranteed right of every Nigerian citizen. Specifically, Section 39(1) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended makes it clear that every person “shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.” We make no mistake about the fact that the peaceful protests staged in recent weeks provided an opportunity for the young people of Nigeria to air their views and express their opinions about the state of the country. The government’s acts of clamping down on those who participated in or mobilised for the protests amount to a brazen violation of citizens fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
It is similarly unacceptable that the Nigerian authorities have also been resorting to diversionary tactics such as targeting the bank accounts of individuals who are said to be financing the protests. It is on record that most of these punitive measures by the government are being effected without any exhaustive recourse to the judicial process. The reliance on ex parte applications to freeze accounts of citizens is antithetical to the principle of fair hearing and proper judicial oversight. This Coalition notes that in most of the cases the government has brought against citizens, it (the government) is clearly an interested party. It is unethical that the government is simultaneously taking up the roles of accuser, prosecution and judge in these cases. These underhand tactics run contrary to the principles of natural justice, which aver that an entity cannot be the judge in its own case. In the face of these attacks on freedom of expression, association and the intrinsic rights of citizens to get their voices heard, this Coalition calls on Nigerians to brace up for the struggles ahead.
The people of this country cannot afford to stand by and watch in the face of unconstitutional measures to silence their voices and abridge their rights as citizens. This Coalition for the umpteenth time calls on the international community to take urgent measures to pressure the Nigerian authorities to henceforth act in accordance to the rule of law by halting the ongoing unconstitutional assault on citizens’ rights.
- Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
- Enough is Enough (EIE) Nigeria
- Partners for Electoral Reform
- Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
- Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED)
6.Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD)
- Yiaga Africa
- Global Rights
- Project Alert
- Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
- Paradigm Initiative (PIN)
- Rule of Law and Accountability Centre (RULAAC)
- HEDA Resource Centre
- African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
- Community Life Project (CLP)
- Protest to Power
- Social Action
- Right to Know
- Lawyers Alert
- Private and Public Development Centre
- South Saharan Social Development Organisation
- Partners West Africa- Nigeria
- Centre LSD
- Connected Development (CODE)
- Stakeholders Development Network (SDN)
- CWCW Africa
- Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA)
- Invictus Africa
- Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA)
- Resource Centre for Human Rights (CHRICED)
- Reboot Design
The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to reappoint Professor Mahmood Yakubu as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission for another five years seem to have come with ease after slight anxiety. Being the first Chairman of the (INEC) to be appointed for the second time not only comes with trust but with massive responsibility to prove competency beyond a reasonable doubt.
Professor Yakubu was first appointed in November 2015 with the first litmus test of conducting the Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship elections fresh from the general elections in 2015 which was adjudged to be one of the best in recent history. No doubt Prof Yakubu started on a shaky note with both elections declared as inconclusive. The Commission went on to conduct another 9 off-circle elections within its five-year tenure. Political analysts and indeed Nigerians will have their contrasting views about how Mahmood fared in the last five years.
Nigeria’s electoral management body is probably the only government agency that is probably the most maligned institution in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the commission always has its work cut out by mainly complicity of other stakeholders, especially political actors and Nigerian security. However, accusing fingers of any electoral malfeasance always goes to the electoral management body. In fact, people go a long way to even blame INEC for low voter turnout notwithstanding a lot of extraneous reasons behind the consistent decline in voter turnout.
Over time, Nigerians have continued to blame INEC for inconclusive elections especially as witnessed in Bayelsa in 2015, Osun in 2018, and Kano during the 2019 general elections. These are mainly as a result of electoral violence or electoral malpractice perpetrated by political actors in violation of the electoral law. This usually leads to the cancellation of elections in certain polling units or Local Government especially when the process doesn’t satisfy the margin of lead principle.
While some of these challenges may not be directly in the purview of INEC, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s election has experienced other issues that the commission should have either prevented or managed better. The commission in the last 5 years has been faulted for declaring results despite electoral violence especially in Kogi, Bayelsa; 2019 and the reruns in Kano; 2019 and in Osun Governorship elections in 2018. While the commission may not be directly responsible for curbing electoral violence, it has a responsibility to ensure elections are only conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. Thus where the atmosphere is not peaceful enough, the commission should not be conducting elections in a volatile atmosphere.
Also, the current INEC administration has been found culpable for its deployment of logistics in most elections it has conducted. The infamous postponement of the 2019 Presidential election by the commission was down to logistics reasons despite the incessant assurance that the commission is ready.
No matter the direction of criticism against the Mahmood-led administration, one cannot fault his body language and effort to improve the quality of elections in Nigeria. This has been through innovations and determination for electoral reform. While the commission remains within the confines of the electoral law and constitution, there have been efforts to make the process more seamless and transparent. The creation of Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security by the Mahmood-led INEC provided a platform for regular and periodic consultation and engagement with stakeholders, including political parties, CSOs, media, and security personnel.
One important innovation that seems to have made at least stable figures of accreditation and total votes cast is the introduction of simultaneous accreditation and voting process introduced after the 2015 election. Initially, citizens undergo accreditation after which they queue up again for the voting process. This is indeed strenuous and discouraging that sometimes citizens get accredited and never return to vote.
Similarly, Nigerians have continued to push for electronic transmission of election results to curtail manipulation. This can only happen through the amendment of the current electoral framework. However, the commission introduced the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) which enables polling units to be transmitted to a portal for citizens to view. This has gone a long way in increasing the transparency of the process. As a matter of fact, both Edo and Ondo elections have shown that citizens’ access to polling units results increases the integrity of the electoral process. It behooves on the National Assembly to expedite action towards passing the electoral amendment to give way for more electoral reform.
In a nutshell, the stakes are high and the bar even raised higher for INEC especially for the next five years as Nigerians expect more. Similarly, responsibility of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections does not lie with INEC alone. Security, political parties, and of course citizens must play their role to consolidate the commission’s effort in ensuring a credible process. Thus as Continuous Voters Registration is set to commence in the first quarter of 2021, this is another opportunity for citizens to participate in the process by registering as voters ahead of the general elections in 2023.