A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Ikeazor Akaraiwe, says one of the root causes of insurgency and banditry is the shutting down of the civic space by the authorities in the country.
He contended that Boko Haram and other groups emerged as a result of repression and closing of civic space.
“Shutting down of the civic space in the country is one of the root causes of Boko Haram. Government should rather key into the digital age by using free speech to gauge the feeling and moods of the people,’’ the legal icon said on Monday in Lagos.
He featured as a guest speaker at the (virtual) launch and presentation of the latest joint action research titled, “NIGERIA: SHRINKING CIVIC SPACE IN THE NAME OF SECURITY’’, by the Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS).
Persecondnews.com reports that the report is the third and final part of a three-part research study collectively undertaken by 11 members of the AGFCS.
The collaborative study, supported by the Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR), examines the exploitation of the festering security challenges in Nigeria to undermine the ability of citizens to speak, associate and organise freely, to mobilise for citizen action and to participate in governance processes.
Akaraiwe canvassed the need for the government to allow free speech and freedom of expression to flourish wjich he said, is the very fulcrum on which democracy is built.
Amplifying his position and belief in free speech, he said:“If a kettle is boiling and the lid is not removed the bubble is being suppressed or not going out to signal the boiling point. The government should remove the lid on free speech to allow the water to bubble.’’
At the October 2020 EndSARS protest, the lawyer described the government’s reaction to the protest by the Nigerian youths as out of proportion.
“Maximum force was used to silence them; an indication that we (government) are not going to accept this social media-propelled reaction to governance. It is rooted in cultural conservatism.’’
On governance, Akaraiwe espoused two schools of thought as style of governance in Africa Nigeria inclusive – Caliphate Schools of Thought and the Modern Governance School of Thought.
“Under the Caliphate style of governance, the leader should not be questioned; questioning him is sacrilegious. In modern governance, leaders are accountable.
“Anti-media, anti-free speech and expression and the Caliphate style have a connection. Military command structure or unitary system we have been operating has crept into our democracy in Nigeria today – the Caliphate culture,’’ he said.
Akaraiwe, however, urged the civil society groups to keep the fire burning and continue to react and reject the government’s dictatorial tendencies and encroachments on the civic space.
“They must think outside the box and continue with the advocacy.’’
Responding to a question from Persecondnews.com, the lawyer said civil society organizations should partner with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Human Rights section, to give fillip to their fight and advocacy against closing civic space and clamp down on them by the government.
“Between 2008 and 2010, I chaired the NBA Joint Committee on Nigeria (JACON) and we collaborated with NGOs. The civil society groups should collaborate and synergize with the 1st Vice-President of NBA in charge of human rights; they have a strong voice.’’
Earlier, the Executive Director, Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, disclosed that security agencies had clamped down on at least 32 NGOs in the country in the last one or two years.
“They have been harassed, monitored and their offices ransacked and funding from overseas blocked.
“NGOs are tagged spies, terrorists under the Terrorism Act and Cybercrime Act; Section 45 is too broad, allowing security agencies to frame anybody who posts anything on the social media for terrorism,’’ Persecondnews quoted her as saying.
Ibezim-Ohaeri said state actors and institutions of government had responded to criticisms and heightening accountability demands by engaging various tactics to silence critics, criminalize dissent and undermine important watchdogs working assiduously to strengthen the nation’s democracy.