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Nigeria: Defending Democracy
Nigeria: Defending Democracy
Date distributed (ymd): 021207
Document reposted by Africa Action
Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information
service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa
Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American
Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for
Africa at http://www.africaaction.org
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +gender/women+
This posting contains several documents related to democracy and
human rights in Nigeria, reflecting both the threats to the still
incomplete democratization process and the actions by Nigerians
campaigning for full democratic rights. The most recent is a
press release calling for protest against the action of Nigeria's
State Security Service in withdrawing the passport of Dr.
Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, a Nigerian citizen who is the chairperson
of the Centre for Democracy & Development, as well as
secretary-general of the Pan African Movement, based in Uganda.
Africa Action executive director Salih Booker -- who met with Dr.
Abdul Raheem at CDD's Lagos offices earlier this year -- said,
"This outrageous incident is a prime example of the Nigerian
government's lack of commitment to democratic rights and the
persistence of its authoritarian impulses. Instead of trying to
intimidate civil society activists with such harassment, the
Nigerian government should be drawing on the rich human resources
of pro-democracy groups to work together with government in
addressing the country's urgent problems."
Today's posting also contains several other brief recent
documents and links on current challenges to democratization in
Nigeria, provided by Pambazuka-News and allAfrica.com.
Centre for Democracy & Development
Press Release, 6 Dec 2002
For more information: Otive Igbuzor, Programme Co-ordinator, CDD
Tel: 234 8033039797; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
CDD CHAIRPERSON ARRESTED AND INTERNATIONAL PASSPORT SEIZED BY
NIGERIA'S STATE SECURITY SERVICE
The Chairperson of the International Governing Council of the
Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD), Dr. Tajudeen Abdul
Raheem was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed Airport on his way to
London on Tuesday 3rd December 2002. CDD is an independent
research, information and training institution dedicated to
policy-oriented scholarship on questions of democratic
development and peace building in the West African sub-region.
Dr. Abdul Raheem, a Nigerian was in Nigeria to attend the 5th
Anniversary Celebrations and Endowment Fund Launch of the CDD.
Although he was released on Wednesday 4th December 2002, his
international passport was seized. According to the State
Security Service (SSS) officials, he was arrested and his
passport seized because his name is on their security watch list.
Up till today (Friday), Dr. Abdul Raheem has not been able to
travel out of the country. The State Security Service has asked
him to be reporting to their office.
It would be recalled that Dr. Abdul Raheem was arrested in the
same airport in November 1993 on account of his involvement in
the pro-democracy movement in exile. However, in the last two
weeks, he has passed through the same airport six times on trips
from Uganda, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom. We are therefore at
a loss as to the reasons for this latest arrest and seizure of
Apart from being the Chair of CDD, Dr. Abdul Raheem is the
Secretary General of Pan African Movement based in Uganda. He is
a well known Pan-African Human Rights Activist, international
Scholar and syndicated columnist for several Newspapers in Africa
including Weekly Trust in Nigeria. This arrest and passport
seizure no doubt cast serious doubts on the human rights record
of this government and clearly shows that the military hangover
is still very much with us.
We therefore demand that the State Security Service Should
release his passport without further delay.
Pambazuka-News, December 6, 2002
[The weekly Pambazuka-News is available by e-mail To subscribe
send an e-mail to <pambazuka-news- email@example.com> with
only the word 'subscribe' in the subject or body. Submissions for
inclusion in Pambazuka News can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org ]
FATWAS AND DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS: THE TIME TO INTERVENE IS NOW
The fatwa issued a fortnight ago against the ThisDay Journalist
Isioma Daniel by the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State in Northern
Nigeria has far-reaching implications beyond the immediate threat
to her life, press freedom, and the controversy surrounding
Nigeria's hosting of the Miss World beauty pageant. Before going
further, it is important to declare an interest in the matter. I
am a journalist by training, and have campaigned for press
freedom, freedom of expression and human rights in general all my
adult life. I have also lived and worked in Nigeria, campaigned
against military dictatorship, and in the past wrote a column and
features on current affairs for ThisDay Newspaper. This
'admission' does not in anyway disqualify me from commenting on
this issue, quite the contrary. I may also add, that although my
professional judgement is that portions of Isioma's article were
controversial, the fatwa against her is completely out of order.
What are the implications and significance of the fatwa beyond
the immediate issues?
Firstly, it is important to recognise that the issuing of a fatwa
by an elected politician represents a dangerous political
phenomenon. That is, one of a nascent dictatorship based on a
fusion of religion and the state (in a section of a secular
country). This phenomenon began with the passing of death
sentences by stoning against allegedly 'adulterous' women in the
name of religious law. In all cases, not a single man responsible
for the pregnancies or babies used as evidence against the women
was indicted. The failure of the Nigerian government to intervene
decisively to halt these blatant miscarriages of justice
permitted the phenomenon to expand its jurisdiction to cover
press freedom, freedom of expression and the arbitrary and
extra-judicial imposition of death sentences on other citizens.
Secondly, by first concentrating its initial attacks on the
alleged promiscuity of women, e.g. unwed mothers and beauty
contestants in a largely chauvinist society, this phenomenon was
able to employ a divide and conquer tactic, and also cloak the
potential danger of its spiked fist with a glove of dubious
morality. We have not heard that the Zamfara State government (or
for that matter the Nigerian government) is opposed to the giving
away of teenage girls into marriage. This in turn, highlights the
inequalities in Nigerian society in general and the country's
constitution in particular. For instance, the present Nigerian
constitution written by the last military regime, and accepted by
the incumbent civilian government, denies women many rights
including the right to confer citizenship on their non-Nigerian
husbands through marriage, a right taken for granted by Nigerian
men. A senior government official once justified this on the
logic-defying basis that women are “easily carried away by
emotion” and may end up conferring Nigerian citizenship on
foreigners in exchange for love.
Thirdly, by advocating a legal and institutional framework which
aims to restrict the movement and activities of women, and deny
them their economic, social and political rights, Zamfara and
other states advocating similar laws will by default literally
'bury' half the problems of their states in relation to
unemployment, provision of education and so forth in one stroke.
The other side of this of course, is that society is denied the
benefit of half of its skills, talent and productive forces. It
is significant that high unemployment and deepening poverty in
some states have provided armies of unemployed and desperate
youth easily converted into raging mobs by cynical manipulation
of some religious and political leaders.
Fourthly, the violent protests orchestrated by political and
religious opportunists and the issuing of the country's first
ever political fatwa could be interpreted as a testing of the
waters, and a show of strength by potential demagogues to see how
far they can go without being challenged by secular and
democratic forces, or even other Islamic leaders.
It is necessary to point out here that the problem is not with
Islam. Christian fundamentalists in the United States for
instance have regularly attacked and even killed doctors running
family planning clinics and women attending them. Despite
carrying out these acts of violence with thinly veiled and tacit
support of right wing religious and political leaders, no one in
their right mind can allege that the problem is with
Christianity. To further emphasise this point, women in
predominantly Muslim countries such as President Megawati
Sukarnoputri in Indonesia, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Tansu
Çiller in Turkey, and Begum Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh have
emerged as democratically elected leaders. In 'conservative'
countries such as Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban
where democratic rights are suppressed, elections are not held -
never mind the emergence of women leaders.
Within this context, the problem of invoking religion and narrow
interpretations of religious morality to suppress democratic
rights can be seen more as a device by members of ruling elites
or opposition groups to build social and political support for
their political agendas, rather than as a strictly religious
problem. This problem is only religious to the extent that at
best, it reflects the undemocratic interpretation of a religious
school of thought. In order to stop such undemocratic schools of
thought from gaining political ground and suppressing democratic
rights, the time to intervene is now.
Individuals, whether public officials or private citizens, cannot
be allowed to commit crimes with impunity in the name of religion
which otherwise would not go unpunished. Calling for the
arbitrary murder, execution or assassination of anyone is a crime
regardless of if it is done in the name of religion.
If the Nigerian government is not to create a dangerous
precedent, the Inspector General of Police must at the very
minimum commence investigations into the statements and actions
of the Zamfara State Deputy Governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi.
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and all democratic and
judicial institutions of the Nigerian government must also go
beyond opposing the Fatwa, and reaffirm unequivocally the
supremacy of all constitutional and democratic rights over any
pronouncements by any person, whether public office holder or
private citizen. These rights include media freedom, and the
fundamental rights to opinion, free expression, association and
In addition, the Nigerian government must recognise and affirm
that it is not the place of the government or private individuals
to punish the media for errors or the content of news reports,
features or opinion articles. Any redress sought must be through
the judiciary, or through an independent ethics or complaints
body not appointed by or dominated by the government. The media
cannot play its vital role of sustaining democracy through
holding the government and powerful individuals to account if the
government or private citizens can arbitrarily arrogate to
themselves power to punish the media.
To fully appreciate the consequence of not acting now, we must
ask the question: What would have been the consequence for
democracy and the unity of Nigeria if Isioma Daniel and the
publisher of ThisDay Nduka Obaigbena had been murdered by zealots
carrying out the exaltations of the Zamfara State Deputy
Governor? What would have been the consequences for the West
African Sub Region of a chain of events which could have led to
widespread religious and ethnic conflict in a country of one
hundred and twenty million people? Without a shadow of doubt,
failure to halt 'politically' motivated rights violations at the
starting blocks, often have devastating consequences for society.
* Rotimi Sankore is Coordinator of CREDO for Freedom of
Expression and Associated Rights, 73-75 Newington Causeway,
London SE1 6BD, UK; Tel: + 44 20 77875501; Fax:+ 44 20 77875502;
E-mail: Media - email@example.com, General - firstname.lastname@example.org
Background Information (from Pambazuka-News): On the 16th of
November 2002, Isioma Daniel wrote an article on the Miss World
beauty pageant published in ThisDay, a Nigerian national
newspaper. In the article, which addressed the controversy over
Nigeria’s hosting of the pageant, she suggested that the prophet
Mohammed would have probably chosen a wife from the participants.
The article attracted complaints from Muslims and protesting
youth torched the Kaduna offices of ThisDay in Northern Nigeria.
Over two hundred lives were lost in the protests, and churches,
mosques and other property were destroyed in attacks and counter
attacks by Muslims and Christian youth. The federal government
had to deploy the police and army to restore peace, and imposed a
curfew for some days.
The Newspaper publicly apologised for the article, and explained
that the Editor had tried to remove the offending sentences, but
failed to do so due to technological difficulties. The
publication emphasised that it is not anti- Muslim and has
several Muslims in top management positions. Some Muslim leaders
accepted the apology and called on fellow Muslims to do the same.
But some other Muslim leaders refused to accept the apology, and
supported the Fatwa issued by the Zamfara State Deputy Governor
Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi. The potency of the fatwa was undermined by
the fact that it was opposed by the country’s leading Islamic
body the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and some prominent
Muslim scholars on the grounds that the writer and the
publication had apologised, and that the Deputy Governor does not
have the authority to issue fatwa’s. The Nigerian federal
government also opposed the fatwa and press freedom groups in
particular condemned it. However, the Zamfara State government,
which was the first Nigerian State to introduce Islamic Sharia
law, has not withdrawn the fatwa.
Isioma Daniel has fled the country.
* Nigerian Sharia state holds firm on fatwa
* What would Mohammed do?
* Soyinka blames federal government
* Fed Govt Nullifies Fatwa
* The truth behind the Miss World riots
* Sultan Wants Perpetrators of Kaduna Riots Punished
NIGERIA: REGISTRATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES WELCOMED
CREDO, an organisation supporting freedom of expression and
associated rights, has welcomed with caution the registration of
22 political parties in Nigeria this week. However, CREDO said in
a statement that it was not the role of government to screen and
register parties. “Rather an Independent Electoral Commission
should merely recognise the existence of parties that notify it
of their intention to participate in electoral processes, once
they fulfil basic administrative procedure,” CREDO said. Further
NIGERIA: PROBE 'UNDERMINED BY PARLIAMENT'
The judge leading government anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria
has accused parliament of attempting to undermine a probe into
alleged financial wrongdoing by senators.
NIGERIA: DEATH SENTENCE ON JOURNALIST ATTRACTS OPPOSITION
Strong opposition has trailed the FATWA (death sentence) passed
on THIS DAY newspaper reporter, Isioma Daniel, by the Deputy
Governor of Zamfara State, North-western Nigeria, over an
allegedly blasphemous article which allegedly triggered riots in
Kaduna and Abuja two weeks ago. Among the prominent voices
opposed to the sentence is Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka,
who called for the immediate prosecution of Zamfara Deputy
Governor Aliyu Shinkafi. Further details:
On-Shore/Off-Shore: Fresh Tension in Niger Delta
Vanguard (Lagos) Editorial, December 1, 2002
By Blessyn Okpowo Deputy Editor
[excerpts only; for full story see link. For other recent news
The fragile peace currently being experienced in the Niger-Delta
is threatened by the continued delay in the signing into law of
the On-shore/Off-shore abrogation bill by President Olusegun
Obasanjo, Sunday Vanguard can reveal. Already, fresh tension
is building up in the area over the Bill that was unanimously
passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly almost three
months ago. From Ondo through Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers to
Akwa-Ibom, and Cross-Rivers States the feeling of anger and
frustration among indigenes of the area is palpable. Speaker
after speaker that spoke to Weekend Vanguard wondered why Mr.
President has refused to sign the bill into law.
Also in these states, high-level consultation is on over how best
to approach the perceived opposition of Mr. President to the bill
as passed by the National Assembly. Opinion leaders in the region
have gone back to their trenches to map out strategies on how
best to 'persuade' President Obasanjo to sign the bill on time
before the gathering storm crystallises into another round of
This not withstanding, various groups in the area are warming up
for a showdown. In Delta, Rivers, Ondo and Bayelsa states for
instance, Ijaw, Ilaje and Itsekiri women are being mobilised to
start another round of protest akin to the one witnessed last
August when women from the three ethnic groups almost paralysed
operations of the oil companies in the Niger Delta over what they
called the criminal negligence of the area by both the federal,
states governments and the oil companies.
"We have watched events in Abuja and it would appear somebody
wants to take us for a ride. We are going to show them that we
are not going to be fooled a second time. We shall fight them to
with everything at our disposal and this time we will not
listen to anybody until our demands are met", Mrs Oritsegbemi
Koloko one of the women leaders told Weekend Vanguard in Warri.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by
Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information
Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa).
Africa Action's information services provide accessible
information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and
international policies toward Africa that advance economic,
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