STATE OF THE NATION: CHRICED Calls for Rescue Mission
By Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has been closely observing developments across the country since the turn of 2021. Knowing from their many experiences that the past year, 2020 was extremely challenging and difficult on many fronts, Nigerians prayed and hoped for a better deal in the New Year. Unfortunately, for many long suffering citizens who are looking up to leaders and those in authority to chart the course towards relief and reprieve, the actions and inactions of those in positions of power has been, to say the least, most disappointing. CHRICED observes that despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which in its second wave continues to destroy businesses and livelihoods, politicians across all tiers of government continue to inflict harsh conditions on the ordinary people.
As things stand, impunity has replaced democratic decision making, while those holding political power carry on without any consideration for social and economic justice. Abuse of citizens rights, attacks on dissent and free speech have all become the order of the day. From the local government to the state and even to the federal level, citizens can hardly find examples of conduct that falls in line with principled, people-oriented leadership. All across the land, impunity and reckless use of political power is the name of the game. Similarly, the unaccountable use of public funds without recourse to the demands of transparency and probity, has become the norm. There are many examples of these serious breaches by people entrusted with political power, who have been using it, not for the good of the collective, but for narrow, self-serving and anti-people ends.
Unjust Sacking of Magistrates in Cross River State
One glaring instance of the impunity ravaging the land is in Cross River State where Governor Ben Ayade has taken the reprehensible step of sacking 30 magistrates, who were owed salaries for two years. It is sad that instead of listening to the complaints of the magistrates, the governor simply announced their sack. CHRICED condemns this unjust, harsh and inconsiderate action at a time when the pandemic has wiped out peoples’ sources of incomes. It is shameful that a leader who is supposed to soothe the wounds of those he is leading, chooses the dishonourable option of inflicting more injuries on people who are already down. It is inhumane that the governor did not even bother to show any form of empathy to the affected citizens.
This he could have done by seeking to know how those magistrates have been feeding their families for the two years they were owed salaries. It speaks to the sheer wickedness and insensitivity of the governor that he can claim there are no funds to pay the salaries of the magistrates. This is the same state like many others, which is receiving billions of Naira in allocation, internally generated revenue and even bailout funds. To refuse to pay people who were employed by the state, only to sack them when they protested to draw attention to their plight is the height of evil, which has become synonymous with the disposition of those entrusted with political power. It is also a low blow for the principle of democratic separation of power that functionaries in the judicial arm of government can simply be told they have been sacked by the head of the executive arm. Ben Ayade, who claims to be a Professor, should be ashamed and embarrassed by such Banana Republic antics, which indicate an unwillingness to adhere to democratic norms and practices. CHRICED strongly condemns this assault on democratic principles, particularly separation of powers that is a cardinal principle in any true democracy.
Continuous Hike In Price of Essential Services, An Assault On Citizens Welfare
CHRICED equally observes that despite the failure of the government to effectively extend any meaningful helping hand to enable citizens cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been busy piling more hardships on Nigerians. The recent ploy to again fiddle with electricity tariffs towards another unacceptable hike by the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) is a pointer to a government, which is not prepared to let the people breathe. Although a lame directive was later issued to make the DISCOs reverse what they described as tariff adjustment, the reality is that the so called adjustment, which amounts to a hike, is a sign of things to come. On the other hand, there have been underhand moves to again hike the price of petroleum products. There has been talk that the “open market” price of petrol would hit N183 per litre, just as the government turns a blind eye to the plight of citizens.
Inflation, especially the high cost of food items and basic necessities is making life unbearable. Whatever happened to the COVID-19 Stimulus Bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in April 2020, is best known to the politicians. The bill which was known as the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill, 2020 was touted as a legislative measure aimed at providing temporary relief to companies and individuals to alleviate the adverse financial consequences of a slowdown in economic activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also aimed at “protecting the employment status of Nigerians who might otherwise become unemployed as a consequence of management decision to retrench personnel in response to the prevailing economic realities.” Till date however, the legislation has no effect on the lives of citizens, many of whom have lost their jobs and are groaning without help from the government.
Insecurity Getting Out of Control
Just as Nigerians face the travails of the harsh economy on their own without meaningful support from the government, they are also at the mercy of kidnappers, bandits and many other violent criminals stalking the land. CHRICED observes that many Nigerians can no longer travel on the nation’s highways without facing the threat of armed criminals who have made life cheap, unbearable and nasty. Daily, Nigerians are treated to sad and gory tales of innocent citizens being abducted, maimed and raped by criminals who now control major roads. In the face of these crimes against the people, the silence of the government is deafening. It is now the norm for kidnapped citizens to pay ransom. Even law enforcement officers who should be protecting the rest of the populace are not spared; they too are being kidnapped and have to pay ransom to hoodlums to be freed.
For a country that is busy clamouring for foreign direct investment, there is no way such investment will come when the government cannot guarantee the security of lives and property. If life has become so cheap, and crime has become so chronic in Nigeria, how will the foreign investors bring in their resources, when citizens are even afraid to invest? It is even suicidal now for citizens to move goods and services across the country. This is the dilemma of Nigeria, which call for selfless leadership and statesmanship to address.
Recommended Way Forward
CHRICED notes that there are many other manifestations of the national crisis beyond what has been outline above. Citizens are groaning everyday as the country continues to fail them. However in the face of these realities, CHRICED has always advocated for a new direction and a different orientation towards nation building. We cannot just engage in agonising, we must begin to organise. As the 2023 general election draws near, the troublers of Nigeria are already organising in order to further entrench themselves in power. The Nigerian people must also begin to organise to provide an alternative. Citizens, who bear the brunt of the deficit in good governance must begin to prepare themselves for the rescue mission. If Nigerians do not unite to rescue the country from the current crop of rudderless politicians, the country could implode causing harm to everyone. It is time to wake up, roll up our sleeves and begin the task of rebuilding Nigeria.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Comrade Zikirullahi is the Executive Director, CHRICED
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