The prominent civil rights advocacy group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has warned that Nigeria risks falling into totalitarianism and a failed state should President Muhammadu Buhari be left alone to continuously shrink the civic spaces.
The group which submitted that the fundamentals of the practice of constitutional democracy are animated by the protection and promotion of the basic constitutional freedoms of speech and the opening of the civic spaces, has raised alarm that since coming to office, President Muhammadu Buhari has adopted anti-democratic postures that constitute grave threats to constitutional democracy.
In a media statement by the national coordinator comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the national media affairs Director Miss. Zainab Yusuf, the Rights group also disclosed that Nigeria faces the possibility of a slide into dictatorship if the trends of rapid surrender by the judiciary and legislative arms to the executive arm headed by a former strongman and military General are not effectively and speedily arrested clinically.
HURIWA expressed fears that both the legislature and the judiciary are now effectively in the hands of lackeys and bootlickers of the executive arm of government through some orchestrated machination and manipulation of the internal organs by the executive of those two key arms of government, just as HURIWA argued that if the decline of autonomy by the judiciary and the legislature is not immediately addressed and restored by some progressives internally and externally, then Nigeria may lose all the gains of constitutional democracy that have been made since 1999 when the military dictators handed over to civilians after nearly four decades of military interregnum.
“It is an open secret that the judiciary though the national judicial council (NJC) was successfully bullied by the executive arm of government and arm-twisted to self-destruct by the use of a kangaroo trial of the code of conduct Tribunal headed by a chairman that is tainted with anti-graft allegations, to sack Justice Sylvester Onnoghen seen by president Buhari as independent minded, only for the weakest academic link in the supreme court Justice Tanko Muhammad to be rapidly railroaded into the office of chief justice of Nigeria even when his confirmation process in the national legislature turned out to be a show of shame”.
HURIWA also stated that although the election of Senator Ahmed Lawan to the position of senate president on the surface appeared to be free, fair and transparent, but there were underlying power plays and executive bullying using the slavishly loyal Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),to precipitate the withdrawal of some of the leading opponents just to make way for the emergence of Ahmed Lawan who is the hard core loyalist of president Buhari since 2015. The Federal House of Representatives also saw the conduct of a manipulated poll which led to the predetermined outcome that has seen another lackey of the president and a man with series of allegations of fraud as far back as when he was in private law practice in the USA, emerging as the speaker. The judiciary and the legislature at the center are effectively taken over by the executive and the first sign of the looming threats to freedoms of speech and civic spaces is the ex parte order by the Federal High Court which permits president Buhari to classify the Islamic movement of Nigeria or Shiites as a terror group only because they have persistently demanded freedom for their illegally detained leader Sheikh Ibraheem Elzaczacky who had previously been granted bail by the same Federal High Court, Abuja division for which president Buhari failed to comply with”.
HURIWA has therefore called on the international community not to allow the imminent collapse of constitutional democracy to happen because the import of the vicious attacks by the federal government against fundamental freedoms of citizens and the shrinking of the civic spaces is the emergence of totalitarianism which may spiral into breakdown of law and order and anarchy.
“As a civil Rights body with total and patriotic commitments to the principles of rule of law and respect for human rights, we view the attacks by the government using the compromised judiciary to illegally outlaw Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and Shiites Islamic movement of Nigeria (IMN) as terrorists groups whereas the killer Fulani herdsmen are allowed to continue with their mass murders, as a grave threats to the constitutional democracy that we fought so hard to attain”.
According to HURIWA : “it is an undeniable fact that civic space is the bedrock and the fundamental of any open and democratic government which is guaranteed under the chapter four of the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended); all other global human rights conventions and laws do also support the fundamental freedoms as espoused in chapter 4 of the constitution. May we remind president Buhari that his attacks against those fundamental freedoms constitute grave threats to democracy because when civic space is open, citizenry and civic society platforms are then able to organize, participate and communicate without hindrance or impediments that the open threats to lives and freedoms of the practitioners have now become. This can only be the case if government is compelled to discharge her obligations to the citizenry. The freedoms of association; peaceful assembly and expression are no doubt the strategic elements of an open civic space. These critical elements are systematically put under attacks by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and un fortunately the free World is watching as constitutional democracy is about to collapse in Nigeria”.