Distinguished gentlemen of the press
We welcome you all to this media briefing. As you know, the UDHR document as spearheaded by Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt on 10th December 1948 has evolved into a worldwide document and an opportunity for human rights groups the world over to reflect, document and x-ray the state of governance, human rights and security of its countries and states with a view to raising observations and recommendations on the way forward. According to the United Nations, Human Rights day presents an opportunity every year to celebrate human rights, highlight a specific issue and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere. This year the UN said the spotlight is on the rights of all people, women, youth, minorities,persons with disabilities,indigenous people, the poor and the marginalized- to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political discussion making.
For us in the Anambra CLO, we remain committed in our struggle to fight against human rights violations, holding government accountable to the people and defending our democracy.
STATE OF THE NATION
With two years to our centenary celebration as a country and 52 years down the line as an independent nation, Nigeria still wallows in the gallows of underdevelopment, misgovernment, kleptomanias, unbridled corruption and wanton destruction of lives and properties. The morbidity ratio inNigeriais so high that international analysts ask how much is the value of human life inNigeria?
Regrettably, there is no end in sight to these anomalies because of the dearth of quality leadership in the country. The Nigerian power configuration has been so badly skewed and bastardized that after long years of rapacious rule by the jackboots of the military, the highest we’ve been lucky enough to have in the corridors of power are those who ascended into office against their wish and ended up inflicting unimaginable injuries into the system. It has been so bad that mediocrity has been elevated to an art and a tradition in this country.
As it stands now, there is still the ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and it can’t even get better with time.
At the beginning of the year 2012, Mr. President gave us a wonderful New Year gift by announcing the total removal of fuel subsidy. We were promised thatNigeriawill turn to an eldorado as the accruing savings from the subsidy removal will be used in turning around for good all our infrastructural deficits. Nigerians resisted the poisonous pill and the government shifted ground by announcing a partial removal of subsidy and an increase of pump price of petrol to N97. Today, fuel price has gone up to between N115 to N120 and nobody is talking again. Those of us who raised alarm and kicked against government’s anti people stance in the fuel subsidy removal without any palliative in place have been justified today.
Our roads are still death traps while the three tiers of government now share the subsidy savings monthly in addition to their monetary allocations.
The implication is that fuel subsidy removal has translated to more money in government coffers which are often frittered away in the normal corrupt manner while there is little or nothing for the masses to benefit from.
In the midst of all these, the details from the Debt Management Office (DMO) of the federal government shows that Nigeria’s domestic debts has increased from N5.966 trillion at the end of the first quarter of the year in March 2012 to N6.153 trillion at the end of the second quarter ended June 30 2012. In the midst of excess spending by government, a whopping N560 billion was earmarked for the 2012 budget while N592 billion has been penciled down in the 2013 budget. Painfully too, no specific projects was tied to these debts rather it was raised to finance budget deficits.
Gentlemen, do we need another prophet to tell us thatNigeriais sinking?
The Transparency International in its report released on Wednesday rated Nigeriaas the 38th Most Corrupt Countries in the world. Nigeria scored 27 out of their 100 marks to occupy the 139th place out of 176 countries surveyed in the report. Now, since the release of that report, the FG instead of making genuine efforts to remedy the situation so as to be on a better ranking next year has punctured the report and has been justifying itself.
Fellow comrades, let us shun apathy and docility and stand up to salvage our country from the shackles of mediocrity and trial and error. Nigerians should hold their leaders accountable and reject any unpopular policy targeted against the masses while those in authority feed on the people’s collective treasury.
The state government led by Mr. Gregory Peter Onwubuasi Obi deserve our commendation for upholding the ideals of tolerance of opinion, respect for the people’s human rights and none use of state apparatus to muscle opposition or oppress dissenting voices.
However, if Anambra should be the actual light of the nation, there is room for excellence instead of settling for good or very good. While government may have good intentions, various lapses often noticed among some political appointees, aides and advisers leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, the state chief executive seems to turn blind eye to some of these negative reports even in the face of glaring evidences against such persons. Today in Anambra state, a commissioner whose ministry is in charge of markets sells his portrait picture by force to traders at the rate of N10,000 each. Not only that , with the tacit agreement of a self imposed market leader operating in the name of Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association, a N500 compulsory levy has been imposed on all traders in the state for the building of a secretariat for the union whose leaders were not elected anywhere .
The recent announcement of traders’ tax of N6000 which was supposed to be collected per head is now being collected per shops. By implication, it means that somebody who owns 6 shops in a market will also pay 6 times.
While government complains of dwindling revenue, it is estimated that about N5 million is collected fraudulently from street traders daily in various markets and streets in Anambra by force and without valid receipts. The collectors claim to be working as government task force while the money ends up in the private pockets of their masters. Anybody who resists such payment often has him or herself to blame as the collectors deal with such people terribly.
We also call on the government to give at least 5% of political positions to physically challenged people in the state.
DEMOCRACY AND GRASSROOT GOVERNANCE IN ANAMBRA
Our sister organization –The Intersociety once described Anambra State government as a first degree violator of the section 7 of the 1999 Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria going by the continuous refusal to conduct local government elections in Anambra. The CLO has been labeled all sorts of names as well going by our stance that democracy ought to be entrenched in the grassroots in the state. The consequence of the absence of democratically elected government at the local councils is that political grooming is dead in the state while our youths in the past 12 years in the state doesn’t know that there is a political post known as councillorship anymore.
While the government has often employed all forms of delay tactics to buy time over the conduct of the council elections, the final seal for the total burial of the agitation for the polls happened recently when the government appointed various members of the fourth estate- journalists as transition council members. While we don’t begrudge any of the selected journalists for the political patronage, we still maintain that the non conduct of the council elections in the state is as a result of grand conspiracy of silence by the various stakeholders- the town unions, the Anambra elites, the civil societies, the legislators etc.
Like the Delta state born reggae legend Ras Kimono sang in his hit album –Under Pressure Part 2 that after this chant , he won’t sing it again, we in Anambra CLO has also decided that this is the last time we are going to make a public agitation over the local government issue again for the present government. But we must emphasize that at the end of the tenure of this government, we are going to call for a probe of the council allocations which accrued to the state for the period under review. It is our position too that members of the National Assembly should ensure that concrete steps are taken in the constitution amendment process to ensure local government autonomy. The so called joint state and local government account should be abolished henceforth so that the local councils can also enjoin financial autonomy and consequently take care of their constitutionally assigned functions and projects.
POLICE, CRIME AND SECURITY IN ANAMBRA
Despite all efforts for reformation, bribery, astronomical bail fee, extortion, torture and intimidation still remain the accompanying definitions of policing in Anambra state. Police cells in most divisions are still occupied by innocent citizens who have no reason to be there. Police are supposed to be our friends but in Anambra, brute force, torture, coercion and cash and carry has become a tradition. The situation has been compounded by mindset as the bulk of the rank and files and some corrupt senior officers posted to the state often arrive with a preconceived notion of making money.
Crime prevention, intelligence gathering and security mapping suffers terribly with this mindset. The people being protected become the victims while professionalism is sacrificed on the altar of personal accumulation.
On the 30th January 2012, the IGP ,M D Abubakar announced immediate ban and dismantling of road blocks on Nigerian roads.
Unfortunately what we see today especially in the commercial city ofOnitshaand Nnewi is a case of selective compliance. All connecting routes to major markets inOnitshalike the main market –ZiksAvenue ,NigerSteet, Creek road roundabout , Portharcourt road all under Fegge are under siege even as we address the press now. In Awada area, policemen from Obosi Division have taken over Ezeiweka road and Oraifite street. The Okpoko division are running riot and are competing with CPS and Onitsha Area command in terrifying people aroundUpper Iwekaaxis, down and up flyover, Chisco andAbaparks. Take a trip in your private car to the upper iweka flyover in the night and you will ever regret venturing into the area as various policemen ransack vehicles, harass the drivers and ask for vehicle papers existing only in their lexicon all in a bid to extort money.
As the Christmas season is around the corner, we use this medium to appeal to the commissioner of police, Mr. Balla Nassarawa to give a marching order to his men to go after the criminals and allow genuine travelers both within the state and those on transit to go their normal businesses hitch free. The Commisioner should set up an independent team to investigate what goes on in the aforementioned stations inOnitshaviz Okpoko, Fegge, CPS and Area Command.
Prisons in Anambra state remains congested with awaiting trial inmates spilling over. Most of the people remanded in prison custody are people brought in by some greedy Divisional Police Officers and their men who take suspects to court unprepared and without notice especially when such suspects refuse to play ball by offering money demanded by such officers.
As at December 2010, the then consultant to the state government on vigilante matters, Chris Udeze said that there are 592 vigilante groups in Anambra state. According to him, there exist 234 units in Nnewi, 224 in Awka and 134 groups inOnitsha. Each unit contains a minimum of 8 boys, so by implication Anambra maintained nearly 5000 men in the fold of vigilante groups. Today, there are no available accurate statistics on the actual number of vigilante operatives while recently it was reported that government plans to recruit additional 5240 armed vigilante operatives. Painfully enough, we have not seen the gallantry of these vigilante operatives in apprehending armed robbers or bursting kidnapping syndicates. The proliferation of vigilante is the root cause of gun culture and the circulation of illicit arms and ammunitions in the state at an alarming proportion. Guns supplied to these men who have rebranded themselves as community policemen are sourced through the black market while there is no scientific database of tracing or monitoring their activities. This is a time bomb and unless the government takes far reaching drastic measures to curtail this trend, the fire will consume many in no distant time. The vigilante operatives also wield machetes, daggers and other dangerous weapons and they don’t hesitate to use it at the slightest provocation on any defenseless citizen especially in moments of their being high on alcohol and drugs which are most times their favorite past time. As the state marches into an election period next year, we forecast an upsurge in criminality, arms dealing and politically motivated shootings. We call for an urgent disarmament exercise in the state and mop up of illicit arms. The state can set up a committee with the support of the federal government task force on illicit arms so as to succeed in the assignment.
DEMOLITION OF ALLEGED KIDNAPPERS PROPERTIES
For sometime now we have watched with dismay the kind of strange method employed by the Anambra state government in tackling the menace of kidnapping. In recent times, with it’s accompanying media hype, we’ve seen situations where the instrument of governance including bulldozers are moved into some private houses and those houses leveled to the ground in a most brazen manner on the reason that the owners of such properties are said to have confessed to the crime of kidnapping. Surprisingly, some people in such places are reported to have cheered the government for a job well done.
While we condemn kidnapping and any other forms of criminality, it is our position that demolition of houses belonging to kidnap suspects even when the suspects have not been convicted by any court of competent jurisdiction amounts to serious violation of the law too by the government. The tacit support of such practices by the state house of assembly is an example of anachronistic stunt for democracy and a bad law without any precedent anywhere in the global legislative practices. Justifying this kind of strange practice is tantamount to the crowd mentality legitimacy which the people as a result of past experience gave to the public butchering of persons by the infamous Bakkasi Boys where an estimated 5000 people were massacred by the group in a crude jungle justice methodology and the victims all labeled armed robbers.
For crying out loud, Anambra state has passed this stage and never again should situations or circumstances push us back to any kind of obnoxious practices. We therefore call on the government to stop this method henceforth.
ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS IN ANAMBRA
It is often said that a man is as good as his environment. In Anambra , the challenges of a cleaner environment has been a recurring issue that most times the state takes the jibe and comments from people as the most dirty state in Nigeria. The situation is also compounded by the attitude of the people to the practice of waste disposal and government negligence on the other side. Coupled with this is the issue of non functioning street lights in major towns and cities of the state. Crime and criminality thrives in the dark and the installation and maintenance of street lights in major places in the state will help in curbing crime rate. Some years back, a commercial bank as part of its corporate social responsibility donated millions of naira for the fixing of street lights in Awka road inOnitsha. Surprisingly, the highest we saw after the donation was the refurbishing of some obsolete light poles which never supplied energy even for one day. The same donkey years have been spent on the beautification project inOnitsha. There is no public cemetery inOnitshapresently.
In other states likeLagos, Asaba,CrossRiverand neighbouringEnugu, the environment is taken seriously while there are stiff penalties for those who deface or litter the environment. The entrance to state capitals and major cities are also taken into consideration by making sure they are carefully beautified and arranged. This is the area companies and other public offices can take up as part of their social responsibility. We are therefore calling on banks operating in the state to take ownership of the environment in Anambra, they can complement government efforts in converting various walkways, illegal motor parks and other spaces which people abuse and convert them into gardens and relaxation parks. This is what is obtainable in other states and we think that when this is done, the state can regain its beauty, aesthetics and become clean and green again.
ASTA AND BRIGANDAGE
A lot has been said and written about the activities of members of Anambra State Traffic Agency (ASTA) and task force people in charge of emblems.
It has been confirmed that powerful people are behind their activities because of the huge tons of money they generate which are not accounted for. As we are in this forum now, somebody somewhere is being manhandled, brutalized or held in captivity by the boys especially inOnitsha. We reiterate our stand that the only way to sanitize the agency is to sack the entire workforce, conduct a public hearing on their activities and call for new applicants. All the new applicants must have a surety and a letter of undertaking signed by the President General of the applicants’ community. Also, the code of conduct guiding them must be enforced while those who flout the rules should be adequately sanctioned. Each team on field assignment must have a supervisor who reports to the commander on hour by hour intervals.
Human rights are all embracing and it concerns each and every one of us.
The media is also an integral part of development in any society because of its significant role of information dissemination and exposing to the front burner any issue which the authorities may want to hide.
Let us therefore strive to work in synergy to give voice to the voiceless, engage in constructive criticisms and be bold enough to ask some salient questions if the need arises.
Thanks for your attention.
SIGNED FOR THE CLO
Comrade Aloysius Attah
State Chair 08035090548
Comrade Justus Ijeoma Esq
State Secretary 08037114869
Why emolish properties? Jail the owner and let other homeless people live in his house.
Why demolish properties? Take the owner to court, when found guilty, jail him or her r and let other homeless people live in his house.