End siege to civic space, groups tell gov

Civil society organizations; the Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group, Oxfam, and the Nigerian Civic Space Protection Alliance, have said that government has constantly stifled the civic space at all levels.

It called on government to end the siege to the civic space.

A communiqué by the Head of the Communiqué Drafting Committee of the groups, Umo Isua-Ikoh, stated that “there is a lack of inclusivity, openness, accountability and transparency in governance at all levels in Nigeria.

“Government often pays deaf ears to non-violent agitations and often respond with violence or suppression, instead of dialogue. ASUU strike, which is a universally accepted form of peaceful agitation, has lasted for some months, without any serious concern by the government. Collective bargaining is a democratic engineering process that ASUU and government must embrace.

“Participants expressed worries and concerns over deliberate and desperate efforts by the government of Nigeria at all levels to close the civic space in the country through its actions and inactions such as censorship, stalking of activists, gagging of press freedom, failure to guarantee safety and security, etc, just to make it impossible for citizens to demand accountability and good governance.

“It lamented that despite being a signatory to the African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights alongside UN charters, conventions, and protocols, the government has continued to suppress freedom of expression. It said, “Suppression of voices in a democracy is an invitation to mobocracy, which is unhealthy for democratic growth and sustainable development. Government should, therefore, encourage freedom of expression.”

The groups also called on the government to run an inclusive program where citizens especially CSOs, marginalized people including women.

It also called on the government to reduce its expenses and stop excessive borrowing which impacted negatively on the government and the people.

The communiqué read in part, “Participants demand that the government of Nigeria, should end, forthwith, the siege to civic space and ensure that people, enjoy their fundamental rights to express their minds at all times.

“Freedom of expression, peaceful protests, and assembly are fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the FRN and other human rights frameworks and instruments, which form the basis for democratic governance.”

It, however, stated in an earlier communiqué that “Civil society groups and citizens, including women, are encouraged to show interest on issues that affects them, especially as it concerns monitoring and tracking programs or projects that are contained in budgets of local government areas , States and Federal Government, including projects of interventionist agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, among others.”

The retreat had 26 affiliate groups and representatives from Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, and Enugu states.

Earlier, NDEBMOG held a workshop on the inclusion of women in the implementation of the 3% Host Communities Fund as provided by the Petroleum Industry Act, on July 8, 2022, in Port Harcourt.

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