Tuesday, January 12, 2021

CSOs demand concrete steps against shrinking civic space – ITREALMS

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Nigerian governments across the 36 states of the federation have been called to action with concrete steps against shrinking civic space, because it’s a threat to democracy, reports 
ITREALMS.

This call was made by a body of civil society organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of CAFSO-WRAG for Development and Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) at a press conference, as part of the national campaign activities against shrinking civic space 2020 in Ibadan, Oyo State at the weekend.
According to the Principal Coordinator, CAFSO-WRAG for Development and African representative, Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), Dr. Tola Winjobi decried that despite promises of action by many United Nations member states including Nigeria to “reverse the trend of shrinking civic space wherever it is taking place,” (Nairobi Outcome Document, GPEDC) attacks on CSOs, social leaders and human rights defenders, and the deterioration of enabling environment for CSOs (GPEDC 2019:8) continue unabated. 

“Nigerian NGOs, Community Development Association, Academia, Human rights activists,  National Youth Council, opposition politicians all have been engaging governments on the need to make governance participatory, open and accountable and respect the rights of the citizens,” he said. 

In Nigeria, he pointed out, there is much impunity and violation of the rule of law as governments are adamant to court rulings against them. 

“Many civilians like Sambo Dasuki, and Ibrahim El-Zakisaky, some journalists and civil society actors that campaigned for them are kept behind bars despite court injunction to release them on bail. Human rights abuses are common especially as being perpetrated by the state,” he said. 

The coordinator recalled that in 2020 for instance, Nigeria boiled as civil society actors had taken to the streets protesting against police brutality as being perpetrated by Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS). 

This, Winjobi said, left scores of citizens killed as a result of this protest which started around September 2020. 

Stressing that systemic repressive and oppressive actions have been taken by government against the civil society and some of these actions required mandatory registration with difficult requirements for CSO operations; regulatory restrictions and nebulous legislation including hate speech attracting N50 million penalty or death penalty; measures banning public demonstrations and processions except for the Nigerian state; poor and limited spaces available for CSO participation; and lack of technical and financial support for CSOs’ effective engagement and operations coupled with donor’s fatigue. 

“Alas, not only Nigeria’s fledgling democracy is being threatened, the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is also being jeopardised in Nigeria through the action of governments. Upholding human rights is core to development; and human rights-based approach (HRBA) is a fundamental principle for development effectiveness. It represents a paradigm shift crucial in achieving the SDGs as it enables the poor and marginalized people to chart their own destiny by empowering them as rights-holders instead of mere beneficiaries of charity. 

“The maginalised and vulnerable are so pauperised to the extent that they could not discern their rights let alone to stand for them. Thus they are being left behind. Real and transformative progress in achieving core SDGs – including eradicating poverty (SDG1), eliminating hunger (SDG2), addressing gender and all forms of discrimination (SDG5) reducing inequalities (SDG10), promoting decent work and sustainable livelihoods for all (SDG8) – will not be possible without a fully engaged civil society and population,” the group decried.

Chuks Egbune/DoP

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