13,241 Nigerians Killed Extra-judicially in 10yrs, Says CDD

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Folalumi Alaran in Abuja

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has warned that democracy has been eroding in Nigeria for the past 22 years, with civic space disappearing at an alarming rate.

It further stated that since 2011, security agents had killed a total of 13,241 Nigerians, emphasizing that extrajudicial murders by state actors have become the country’s leading cause of death.

This was contained in a report titled “Democracy Watch Reports”, unveiled by the think-tank in Abuja on Monday.

While giving an overview of the report, CDD Director Idayat Hassan expressed sadness that unlawful killings had become frequent in the country since 1999, noting that many of these killings were carried out by security forces and went unpunished.

She said, “these unlawful killings go largely unpunished, thanks in part to Nigeria’s Force Order 237, which allows officers to use lethal force in ways that contravene international law, and because of government corruption and a prevailing culture of impunity.

She continued: “Successive governments in Nigeria have used unlawful killings to quell secessionist upheavals and terrorist activities, a practice that was exacerbated during President Muhammadu’s Buhari’s tenure – such as the unlawful killing of 350 Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) members by the Nigerian army in 2015.

“It is pertinent to state that extrajudicial killings conducted by state actors has become the primary cause of death in the country. In fact, state actors have cumulatively killed 13, 241 people since 2011”.

Hassan noted that over 70 per cent of the prison population was made up of detainees awaiting trial, with over 20 per cent awaiting trial for more than a year.

It observed an emerging trend of security officers receiving orders from elite in Nigeria to remand detainees for longer period on spurious grounds.

“Compounding the effects of illegal detention is the horrible detention situation in Nigeria that further exacerbates human rights violations. Overcrowding in Nigerian prisons has increased by more than 1000 percent in the last decade,” she added.

Hassan added that governments had frequently invoked the pretext of ‘preventing terrorist actions’ to justify disrupting peaceful protests and social movements.

She stated that by doing so, the government had severely restricted Nigerians’ rights to assemble and demonstrate, in violation of relevant Constitutional provisions.

“Peaceful protests are regularly met with violent attacks by security personnel or even are prevented from protesting in the first place. The excessive use of force in reaction to largely peaceful protests – most recently visible during the #ENDSars protests – has created a frightening climate that discourages or limits the right to assemble.

“Undaunted, Nigerians protested on Democracy Day in June 2021 but were once again met with the deployment of security forces spraying tear gas and firing live bullets into the air to disperse what they referred to as ‘anti-government’ protests,” she noted.

She added that the media had also faced censorship, harassment, arbitrary arrests, and even assassination attempts against journalists.

On the fight against corruption, Hassan said there had been some notable improvement in the last 22 years, particularly the setting up of anti-corruption institutions, adding that the number of prosecutions in the last couple of years has increased.

She, however, maintained that each administration had experienced challenges as the nation was yet to see a president who had wholly supported the fight against corruption particularly targeting members of his political party.

“In 22 years, we have seen a deterioration of human rights which is like the basis of democracy itself. Any government can actually provide infrastructure be it military or autocracy or democracy. Democracy is about freedom, civil and political rights. In the last 22 years, we have seen that from one administration to the other there have been flagrant human rights violation, especially extra-judicial killings.

“When you look at all the indexes put together that actually benchmark Nigeria’s performance on civil and political rights, you will find that we deteriorated, especially the last five years,” Hassan stated.

On his part, Director of Africa and West Asia of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Prof Adebayo Olukoshi, who presented the keynote address at the event, expressed concerns that despite the best efforts of election management body, Nigeria has continued to witness an assault on its electoral integrity, including a significant social and development deficits.

Olukoshi, who spoke on “the State of Democracy in Nigeria over the past Two Decades”, stressed the need for the country to redefine it process of democratisation.

“Democracy in out context must be able to deliver employment, development and give citizens a hope of social mobility and therefore, a perspective for the future. If we don’t do that effectively, our quest to strengthen and consolidate democracy will amount to jumping on the same spot which means we won’t make any progress. Our parties must develop policies to confront challenges in the country,” he said.

Also speaking, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Niger State, Prof. Samuel Egwu, maintained that democratic politics in the country had
yielded some dividends and reveal the long miles needed to cover.

“We have seen a flowering of civil and political liberty to some extents ,we have seen regular and periodic elections with some degree of improvement in our procedures, and have begun to see the increasing level of competition for power, acceptance of defeats for those who lost and we have seen elections that are very competitive in nature, which you can’t tell the outcome till it’s conducted

“However, I think the major lacuna in our experience so far is that we have not been able to bring so much benefits to people in terms of expectations for material uplifting and this raises another question of expectation of democracy,” Egwu stated.