(Being speech by the Chairman of Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) to mark this year’s 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Human Rights Day 2013, on Sunday 8th Dec. 2013.)
Another historic week in the world of human rights activism is here with us. The Annual United Nations Human Rights Day is observed December 10 to mark the anniversary of the presentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Events focused on the UDHR are held worldwide on and around December 10. Many events aim to educate the people on their human rights and the importance of upholding these in their communities. The day may also include protests to alert people of circumstances in parts of the world where the UDHR is not recognized or respected , or where the importance of these rights are not considered to be important . Human Rights Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted between, January 1947 to December 1948. It aimed to form a basis for human rights all over the world and represented a significant change of direction from events during World War 11 and the continued colonialism that was rife in the world at the time. The UDHR document is considered as the most translated document in modern history. It is available in more than 360 languages and new translations are still being added.
Each year, Human Rights Day has a theme. Some of these themes have focused on people knowing their human rights or the importance of human rights education.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has chosen the theme for this year’s celebration as – 20 Years working for your Rights. The United Nations General Assembly created the mandate of High Commissioner for the promotion and protection of all human rights in December 1993. The General Assembly was acting on a recommendation from delegates to the world conference on Human Rights held in Vienna earlier the same year. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference marked the beginning of a renewed effort in the protection and promotion of human rights and is regarded as one of the most significant human rights documents of the past quarter century.
The Vienna Declaration is a reality document of this age which calls upon the peoples of the world and all states members of the United Nations to rededicate themselves to the global task of promoting and protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms so as to secure full and universal enjoyment of these rights.
Reflecting on this year’s theme and celebration, The United Nations Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay said and I quote “As we continue to strive towards a world that acknowledges the rights of all human beings, the Vienna Declaration, which led to historic advances in the promotion and protection of human rights is the most significant overarching human rights document produced in the past 40 years”
Coming back home, The Civil Liberties Organization founded on October 15th 1987 despite undergoing several challenges and dynamisms is still preoccupied with the business of human rights promotion, good governance and deepening democracy.
For us in the Anambra State Branch, we dedicate this year’s World Human Rights Day to the memory of the living legend the now late Nelson Rolihlahlah Mandela ( Madiba) (1918- 2013)
Mandela epitomizes the true meaning of “Struggle” and “Activism”. He lived and died for what he believed in and not even the vagaries and vicissitudes of life, the filthy lucre of public office nor the ostentations of wealth could taint his life. He lived and died so that humanity all the globe would be free.
Alongside Okonkwo Networks, we say that Nelson Mandela is an extraordinary man and a rare breed in our generation. He was a man of destiny, who came, saw oppression, bigotry and tyranny, rejected them and found justification for the use of violence in the face of tyranny. Then while in the jail of his oppressors, he realized the limit of violence as a response to evil and he became a changed and better man. He found his humanity and learned that only forgiveness can heal the pain of injustice, prejudice, oppression and any evil men can inflict on the weak or strong.
As Nigerians like Paul Omoruyi would say, the lessons we should imbibe on the life of Mandela includes:
a)If all we live our life is all about our personal interests, then we have led a worthless life.
b)Our lives don’t consist of the abundance of things we possess.
c) Life is much more than what we wear, eat drive and acquire
d) We should believe in ourselves, our dreams and contribute to the greater good of the society.
e) Forgiveness is more powerful than hatred while evil cannot triumph over good
f) Against all odds, fight for what is right and stand for what is right always.
Adieu the great one.
State Of The Nation:
When God created Nigeria, He made it the finest of all His Creations. Is it the beautiful landscape, the vegetation, the flora and fauna, the natural tourist attractions, the abundance of human and natural resources etc. just name them . Some poets after reflecting on the abundant gifts bestowed on us freely by nature once declared that “God is a Nigerian”.
But the big question begging for answers and quick solution has always been why are we so blessed and at the same time doomed like cursed people? . The answer is that our problem is self inflicted and no one can solve it for us unless we address them frontally.
The 2013 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index still placed Nigeria among countries with high rate of corruption. While countries like Denmark, New Zealand and Finlandand are in top shape going by their ratings, Nigeria still follows behind countries like Paupau New Guinea ranking 144th most corrupt countries out of 177 countries studied in the world. In 2012, Nigeria was ranked 124th and its further slide in the ranking clearly shows that we still pay lip service to the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Also, Maplecroft, a global rights watch in its 2014 Human Rights Risk Atlas ranked Nigeria as the world’s 10th Worst Human Rights Offender. Classified among the category of extremes, the report also said that the economies of Myanmar (8th), Nigeria (10th) Ethiopia (28th) andIndonesia (30th) present a particularly high risk to business. It said and I quote “In such economies, a high rate of deforestation coupled with the unchecked conduct of security forces and a climate of impunity for human rights violations has led to a high risk of abuses of the people’s rights including property and minority rights”
The most alarming and disheartening of it all is Nigeria’s debt profile at the moment. According to the Debt Management Office, Nigeria’s total debt stock comprising external and domestic has raised from N7.5 trillion to N8.23 trillion levels as at September 30, 2013. This according to the report represents an increase of 10. 20 percent from the December 31, 2012 figure.
This is a clear and present danger and we warn that Nigeria may crash like an aircraft if the government refuses to adjust its belt and the citizens oblige those in power their various luxuries.
President Jonathan, Ndigbo And 2015:
When two American Political Scientists, Harold Lasswell and David Easton defined politics as “who gets what, when and how” and “the authoritative allocation of values” respectively, maybe they had Nigeria in mind then going by the way distribution of resources and amenities are done in our country.
43 years down the line after the Nigerian Biafran Civil war, Ndigbo still wallows in the throes of collecting crumbs from the master’s table. We are still the errand boys who go to Abuja to get our individual share of the national cake for selfish reasons why our collective lot is being denied us. We thought that this was an orchestrated plan by the North to keep reminding us that we are the conquered territories of the nation but events have proved that ours is a systemic virus infested in us by the powers that be with the active collaboration of few of us at the corridors of power.
It is regrettable that President Goodluck Ebelemi Jonathan since assumption of office has continued in the same direction of making Ndigbo a situation of “the more you look, the less you see”
On 30th August 2012, President Jonathan visited Anambra State and commissioned among other things the Onitsha River Port. He also said the contract has been awarded for the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge among other sweet talks.
One year and four months later, nothing is happening at the much publicized Onitsha River Portwhile the second Niger Bridge is becoming another “come and see American wonder”
They told us that the groundbreaking ceremony for the commencement of the second NigerBridge has been done. They went as far as doing several publicity stunts to that effect yet no one knows where the take off site for the bridge is located. The existing bridge has been in a state of acute need for repair having been over used since 1965. The implication presently is that people pass through hell on daily basis accessing that bridge. Transporters and commuters going through Asaba to different parts of the South West spend various hours owing to gridlock which has become a normal routine on passing through the bridge. Diabetic patients often at the risk of dehydration and shock as well as hypertensive cases have died on top of the bridge out of exhaustion while there is danger that more casualties will be recorded this Xmas season. It is already a settled issue that many travelers coming into the south east this season may likely spend days and nights passing through the bridge.
We therefore call on Ndigbo, the South East Governors Forum, Ohaneze , civil society organizations of south East extraction and all that matters to come together and pursue a common agenda.
The issue of second Niger Bridge cannot continue to be a political or campaign tool which has been the case since 2003. Igbos must articulate their demands and rights which should be addressed by the present federal government and not even wait till the next political transition. They should be pursued vigorously.
Mr. President should be made to realize that there is more at stake with the Igbos beyond going by the name Azikiwe and Ebele. Ndigbo should not be taken for granted in the political configuration of the country not anymore. Our candid advice to Ndigbo in summary is this: “Sharpen your bargaining power and utilize it well this time”
ASUU Strike And The Nation’s Educational System:
Since July 1 2013, Nigeria’s tertiary education system has been in jeopardy owing to the protracted strike embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Nigeria Universities (ASUU). Initially we are fully in support of ASUU going by the enormous rot that has bedeviled the educational system in Nigeria and government’s non committal attitude to the sector.
But holding the future of promising youths to ransom for the past five months in the name of agitating for better conditions of service and struggling for the fulfillment of the 2009 agreement to us is not only wicked and political but a clear case of over stepping of boundaries by ASUU.
The present impasse is more political than altruistic. We are tempted to conclude that the ASUU National leadership wants to undermine the strength of the current administration. More so, some university chapters of ASUU are more vibrant in self seeking political activities than striving for academic excellence and better conditions of service for their members.
Like in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka where ASUU leadership is mainly interested in management politics and who succeeds the incumbent Vice Chancellor of the university. On two occasions, the ASUU –NAU leadership took the university management to court and even asked the court to stop the senate meeting of the university. Because their preferred choice was not appointed the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, they also wrote a petition to the University Governing Council alleging that the DVC’s appointment didn’t follow due process and went ahead to declare that the present VC’s tenure has elapsed counting the time he stayed in acting capacity to his five year tenure. Of course, their petitions and court cases ended in the trash can.
We join our voices to call on ASUU to immediately call off its strike and return to the classroom for the interest of our teeming youth student population. Negotiation is a continuous process subject to review and evaluation. The enormous damage already caused by the protracted strike action will take us a long time to recover from.
2013 Gubernatorial Election Appraisal:
Experimental democracy despite its limitations and deficiencies is taking root in Nigeria alaAnambra State. The much talked about Nov. 16 guber election and November 30 supplementary election has come and gone.
It gladdens our heart that despite all the tension brought into the system by desperate politicians, heaven did not fall neither did the state implode into flames. Anambra people should be commended for keeping their cool and using their common sense to choose who will succeed Mr. Peter Obi by March 17, 2014. The outgoing Governor, Mr. Obi should be commended too for not using the state machinery to turn the state into a war zone because of electing his successor. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC having admitted its lapses in the Anambra election must ensure that they come prepared for 2015 election. Now that brazen election rigging is becoming old fashioned in Nigeria, INEC has no choice than to get it right during elections. First, by ensuring that a correct and scientifically proven authentic voters’ register are used henceforth in any election and ensuring a level praying ground for all candidates.
We also congratulate the Governor Elect, Chief Willie Obiano and His Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke. They should realize that the first constitutional obligation they owe Ndi Anambra when they assume office is to ensure that the security and welfare of the people shall be their primary purpose in government as enshrined in Section 14 subsection 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. They should realize that governing Anambra state is not a tea party either. Judging from their pedigree too, a lot is expected from them.
The prelude to the election witnessed lots of interesting episodes and characters. Too many desperations among some of the candidates, campaign of calumny, mudslinging and deceit. Some promised utopian projects while others who didn’t make it also said they will eradicate kidnapping within 6 months if elected.
As if to add fillip to their promise on the failed bid, a party chairman was kidnapped shortly after the election. Though now out of captivity, it is crystal clear that the kidnap was politically motivated.
We therefore call on the security agencies in the state to be on red alert now. There will be more politically motivated kidnappings and general insecurity in the state between now and the handover date of the new administration. This will be purely to discredit the outgoing administration and to create an atmosphere of confusion for the incoming one. So beware, while caution should be the watchword!
Anambra Towns Under Siege:
While the Obi administration is being applauded for having taken the state to greater height development wise, one of the glaring deficiencies of the administration is the seeming lack of will power to handle certain excesses of some political appointees and hoodlums who reap where they do not sow.
Presently in parts of Awka, Obosi , Onitsha and Ogbaru, residents, traders and business men are under the siege of pseudo militant youths and street boys who make their living by causing untold havoc to other people. These boys operating under the banner of MASSOB, Igbo Youths, Onitsha Ado Youths, Obosi Youths, Ogbaru Youths, Fegge Youths etc have become a great menace to the people while the government seems to look the other way.
From daylight brigandage to extortion, they issue all manner of receipts with no valid address while in most cases they collect money by force and threat.
At Obosi, there is already a shadow government in place as jobless youths regroups, brandish fake identity cards and arm themselves with logs of woods and other dangerous weapons. They collect tolls from vehicles while any uncooperative driver is dealt with seriously.
Fegge boys and others criminals who claim to be MASSOB holds sway within Main market and other adjoining areas including the one they call Biafran market . From our independent investigation, Onitsha is now the hub of all criminal elements that make their money by printing receipts and tickets while dishing it out by force. Deltans from Okoh and parts of Asaba also engage in this deal and they report to Onitsha on daily basis to fill their pockets.
The story is endless while the government seems to be overwhelmed by these criminal acts. We reiterate our persistent calls on the state government to as a matter of urgency handle frontally these criminal elements. There is need to have an effective committee against touting peopled with men of sound reasoning and integrity driven law enforcement agents who will not only arrest but prosecute all the hoodlums holding parts of the state to ransom. Making a pronouncement on banning youth groups and the likes in the state without enforcement procedures simply amount to the barking of a toothless bull dog.
Also, traders in Anambra State are literarily under captivity. The present Commissioner of Commerce in Anambra State and a self appointed Commander General of Amalgamated traders have pocketed the entire markets in the state while daily returns accrue to them more than the state Board of Internal Revenue. To perfect their strategy, they made sure that major markets in the state whose leadership tenure expired remains under caretaker arrangement. From General Bridge Head executive to the Bridge Head medicine dealers market, Agbo –Edomarket Nnewi, Onitsha Main Market etc , their stooges are appointed as members of the caretaker committee. Anyone appointed as the chairman of the committee allegedly buys the position with millions of naira from the commissioner and his lieutenant who hails from Nanka in Orumba North local government. The duo allegedly collects monthly returns from the various market caretaker committees and they employ all sorts of tricks to confuse the state exco members anytime the issue of democratization of market leadership is raised so that they can continue to drill their ‘crude oil’ from the markets.
We are calling on the Anambra State government to order for the immediate democratization of market executives in the state.
Unemployment And The Remedy:
Some analysts have argued that the proliferation of different youth groups and other ruffians holding people captive in Anambra can be attributable to high unemployment rate in the state. While the government argues that it doesn’t provide jobs but to create an enabling environment for job creation, it is clear that the enabling environment cannot be feasible while there is youth restiveness. That is why we are gladdened on the ongoing recruitment of teachers and members of the civil service in the state. There are also fears that the exercise may have been a campaign tool by the present administration. Those who nurse this kind of skepticism cannot be blamed if going by the pronouncement of the government in several public forums before the election that the new workers will resume duties by November 11 2013 while their November salaries have been penciled down.
Today, we are in the third week of December while no names have been made public as the recruited workers. The implications of reneging on this public statement will be calamitous to the image of the outgoing administration and the succeeding one.
We therefore urge the state government to not only do the needful by publishing the recruited people and empowering them to start work immediately but to also work out modalities on how to engage the teeming unemployed in the state annually till the next four years.
Local Government Polls:
One issue that has remained a sore point in Anambra State is the non conduct of local government election in the state since year 2000. So many reasons have been adduced both by the illegitimate regime of Dr. Chris Ngige and the present administration of Mr. Peter Obi on why the election has been delayed.
We are supposed to go for local government polls by Dec 14th 2013 when last Wednesday, the ANSIEC Acting Chairman; Sylvester Okonkwo announced the postponement of the election (the 3rd in recent times) to December 21. Okonkwo said the change was necessary because the Nov. 30 supplementary polls affected the earlier date.
We back ANSIEC for the postponement knowing really that the supplementary polls in the state really affected preparations for the local council polls. However, our support for the new date can only be taken if the commission and the state government are really committed this time to hold this election finally. We call on all the political parties to get serious and get involved towards making the date and the election a reality. Backing out of the exercise like some political parties have threatened will not help issues. Our calls for the conduct of the local council election have remained consistent and we shall not relent until this is achieved. Apart from the fact that the present Transition Council members arrangement is an aberration and a misnomer to the constitutional provision, we want to see 326 councilors , 21 council chairmen and deputies as well as supervisory councilors and aides get on stream in the local government structure in Anambra like their neighboring state in Enugu. This will also address the issue of unemployment to an extent and at the same time give us, people to hold responsible if our streets are not graded annually.
Police And Human Rights In Anambra State:
As we said in last year UDHR celebration, despite all efforts for reformation, bribery, astronomical bail fee, extortion, torture and intimidation still remain the accompanying definitions of policing in Anambra State. Crime prevention, intelligence gathering and security mapping suffers terribly under this mindset because the people being protected end up as victims while professionalism is sacrificed on the altar of primitive accumulation.
That is the scenario today in Anambra policing. What else can we say other than to intensify our efforts in changing the mindset of the populace that the police should be our servants and not our predators and oppressors? This is a high risk we are determined to continue taking. We also welcome the new Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, Usman Akila Gwary. It is too early in the day to make any impressions about him but we simply advise that he should provide the positive direction for the men and officers of the command to be crime fighters and not merchants in uniform.
This report cannot be complete without dishing out awards of infamy to some divisions and officers who have vowed to tarnish the image of the police despite the commitment of Alhaji MD Abubakar.
The Station with the Most Corrupt Policemen in Anambra State goes to Okpoko Police Division, Obodoukwu Road, Onitsha/ Ogbaru. Though headed by Emeka Ugwu who we are yet to place fully where he belongs in terms of integrity, men from the station rank the highest in proclivity for material acquisition, arbitrary arrest, money for bail and mass arrest for quick cash.
The Most Money Conscious Officer award also goes to Supol Tony Onyakhire , Unit Commander, Okpoko SARS. Under Mr. Tony’ s ‘watchful’ eyes, his men who were trained to apprehend armed robbers and felons engage in mass arrest of innocent traders at random along the road or in beer parlors. Without investigation, they summarily dump their victims inside their bed bug infested stinking cell and openly collect cash in exchange for the detained people’s freedom ranging from N10,000 to N70,000. The bulk of the men at Okpoko SARS with their commander need to be transferred to Baga Road in Maiduguri , Borno State where they shall be shaking hands daily with Boko Haram extremists.
The third award of The Officer with a Compromised Mindset Award should go to SP Friday Onoja, The DPO, Awada Police Station. Onoja gets this award for willfully encouraging his men to collect fees for bail. He also gets the award for allowing his boys to turn every nooks and crannies of Awada into cash office for police and using the 7pm restriction of Okada movement as an opportunity to make illicit money from all cyclists both private and commercial.
The award is not only for infamous roles only, we recognize CSP Shehu Meikudi , DPO Fegge Police station for being a role model for disciplining errant officers and standing for truth always.
Another public officer who deserve infamous award is the Transition Council Chairman of Idemili North Local Government Area, Mr. Obinna Ikpeze. Ikpeze gets the award for turning his local government secretariat into a breeding ground for touts who engage in extorting and brutalizing motorists in the name of road decongestion. With vehicle N0. XW 114 ENU, drug addicts that go with different aliases like Bakassi, Brown, Bank, Nwa Onitsha and Billy have converted the Ogidi secretariat into a dungeon where they do many things to their hapless victims while the TC Chairman looks the other way.
Finally, we thank our Speaker, our own Nze Emeka Umeagbalasi for handling the topic – Credible election as the condition- sine –qua non for the emergence of authentic leaders. We believe our society can only get better when each and every one of us begin to reform and re-brand.
Thank you for listening
Comrade Aloysius Emeka Attah