COMRADE (DR) NASIRU M.I JAGABA
National President, Network for the Rights of Indigenous and Marginalized People (NRIMAP) in Nigeria
CAMPAIGN TO STRENGTHEN THE PROTECTION OF THE MOST VULNERABLE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (HRDs) IN WEST AFRICA
ON THE: 27TH -28TH FEBRUARY, 2018
Good morning all, I’m standing before you this morning with a broken heart. We lost a voice, a Father, a priest, a defender, a developer in Southern Kaduna. His Name is Bishop Danlami Bagoberi. Pls can we be on our feet to observe one minute silence in honor to this great achiever……..may his gentle soul rest in peace.
In the course of my activism for the liberation of my people, who are victims of political subjugation, economic marginalization, social colonialization and human rights abuse; I was elected to serve as the National Youth Leader of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union’s (SOKAPU) National Youth Wing. Subsequently, one of the Youth Leaders of the Middle Belt Forum comprising of fourteen States in the central part of Nigeria. Furthermore, I am presently the National president of newly formed Network for the Rights of Indigenous & Marginalized People (NRIMAP) in Nigeria. The platform I’m representing here at the campaign for the most vulnerable Human Right Defenders in West Africa.
The situation of Human Rights in Africa is very poor. The United Nations Systems, International Law and the African Union have certainly all contributed to the establishment of Human Rights Systems In Africa. Yet, extensive Human Rights abuses are still occur in all part of Africa, often under the oversight of the State.
In Nigeria, the situation is of a great concern as certain individuals proven to be stronger than institutions of government.
Considering the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, which stipulates that “Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples”. Nigeria, which has been active in signing and ratifying international Human Rights Treaties, it has always been an issue when it comes to the implementation of these treaties domestically. The challenges are attributes of government corruption, elitism, nepotism, social injustices, differential and preferential treatment of ethnic groups, greed, executive rascality etc. All these undermined the status of Human Rights and its’s defenders.
The challenges bedevilling the people of Southern Kaduna, the Middle-Belt and other marginalized groups in Nigeria are my focus. These challenges include human rights abuses, inequality, confiscation of communal lands; economic deprivation and nepotism. All this were actions against the people by organs and agencies of government at all levels at a time or the other. Of particular interest to me and my team has been the plight of vulnerable groups such as women, children, youth and persons living with disability; who are usually at the receiving end of the social injustices in the region.
We are faced with the following challenges which largely goes against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, 2007:
• The proposed demolition of over 1500 inhabited housing units, besides schools, hospitals at Gbagyi Villa, a locality within Kaduna metropolis by the Kaduna State government.
• The proposed establishment of grazing reserves stretching over 70,000ha of land in a non- pastoralists community and consequently depriving the community of their right to land-a major factor to production in agriculture-by the Kaduna State government.
• The sacking of communities by marauding Fulani herdsmen militia in over 7 local governments in Southern Kaduna and other parts of Middle-Belt.
• The incessant kidnapping of citizens and foreigners (including women and children) alike in Southern Kaduna areas of Chikun, Kachia and Kagarko local governments; which have amounted to a deliberate attempt to sabotage economically the Southern Kaduna people in budget implementation using the excuse of Fulani militia and the government looking the other way by both Federal and Kaduna State government.
• The non-performance of budgets and fiscal planning in the Southern Kaduna communities in over two years.
• The proposed bill to infringe on rights to religion as sponsored by the Kaduna State Government.
• Smear remarks by Individuals in government that were racial and with prejudice against the Southern Kaduna people.
• Non-inclusiveness in governance and overt politicisation of government by government officials amounting to discrimination, segregation and denial of fundamental rights.
• Arbitrary arrest and detention
These challenges brought us to the point of hitting the ground running; without delay, under my leadership, the executive committee commenced the activities that included the following:
• The call for consultative meetings with affected communities to dig deeper into the problem history, issues around the policies or statements by authorities and impending consequences on the peace and stability; growth and development of the affected communities.
• Findings were later deliberated upon at larger consultative meetings including stakeholders to brainstorm on the issues and finding guided paths through which these rights violation will be amicably resolved.
• At the close of such meetings resolutions were made and various committees were to implement the strategic engagements in this regard. One of the next steps taken was engaging the media, new media and social media to advocate in the defence of rights.
• We were later making press releases and communiqués to buttress our position on issues and guiding activities of members accordingly. Articles were later circulated through the new media to open more the discourses on these burning issues across the social media. Government was also being engaged through these media on every right violation noted by citizens.
• We held organised campaigns and peaceful protests against anti-people policies, programs, legislations that were conceived to deepen inequality, social injustices, non-inclusiveness and underdevelopment of citizens.
• We approached the judicial systems through various actors, to petition the government on rights violations and infringements.
• We launched hashtags (#) on the genocides, mass killings and destruction of our people from Fulani herdsmen whom our government admitted to be foreigners and were paying them compensations to stop the killings. And nothing was ever done concerning the victims even while we still make the demands for their compensation.
Threats that ensued
The action and responses we made to the aforementioned challenges faced strict resistance and fight back from the political class especially officials in government, state security actors (DSS, NPF). Their activities included:
• Meetings were being sabotaged towards blackmailing my person and others on contrived inciting, hate aggravating headlines that were later to become a reason for my first judicial trial.
• The Nigeria Police, Directorate of State Security were tipped to arrest and prosecutes choice individuals who speak against the injustices, while close relatives, friends and associates became targets for libellous remarks and outright abuse, arrests and threats.
Even supporters were being targeted and became victims of economic deprivation on every program of government from procurement, development projects, recruitments and empowerment programs.
• Government deployed security forces to reign brute force on the citizens whose rights we were defending in some cases declaring curfews in over 3 cluster local government areas lasting over two months denying them access to their farming activities, trade while their food produce were being destroyed and grazed upon in their farmlands.
• The economic impoverishment was further strengthened by the successive kidnapping of people in their farms, homes and along highways for ransom(s). The challenge still persists till date becoming the basis of non-implementation of major budgeted projects by government at all levels across this area.
• Termination of senior civil servant’s engagements especially those from the affected communities.
• The suspension of some legislators who lend their voices to advocate for proper administration of security in bringing to rest the Southern Kaduna genocide and invasion during parliamentary sessions and interviews.
• The gagging of the media to refuse to admit news from perceived non-conformists within the State and to delimit the outreach of human right defenders across the mainstream media.
• Weak institutions promotes prebendalism; a situation where officeholders use official power to achieve personal and primordial sentiments.
• Majority of citizens are unaware of their human rights or have lost confidence in the system/institutions to uphold their rights.
• Human rights defenders are victims of political and socio-economic exclusion
• The plight of vulnerable groups is usually not factored in majority of conflicts highlighted.
• Weak networking among the human rights defenders.
• Poor media coverage of human right abuses, and government control and manipulation of media organizations.
Thank you all for listening, fellow participantsi wish us all safe flight, until we meet next at Mauritanian.