A group of leading Nigerian writers, activists and journalists in Nigeria and abroad, The 1960 Collective, has issued a solidarity statement identifying with the ongoing nationwide strike and mass protest in the country over the sudden rollback of petrol subsidy by the federal government.
In the statement, made available to Premium Times this morning, the group said it supports “the aims and objectives of the peaceful nationwide action of civil disobedience led by organized labour and several civil society organizations.”
It also condemn police brutality of protesters by the police and urged the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, to bring to book police officers involved in the killing of some protesters.
Read full statement below
A Statement of Solidarity with the Nigerian People!
(1) We, the undersigned members of The 1960 Collective at home and abroad, hereby declare our support for the popular movement against the removal of the non-existent fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government. We support the aims and objectives of the peaceful nationwide action of civil disobedience led by organized labour and several civil society organizations.
(2) We pray for the repose of the souls of the first martyrs of this very struggle, including Muyideen Mustapha, the gallant 23-year old Nigerian mowed down by police bullet in Ilorin, Kwara State on Tuesday, 3 January, 2012 for exercising his right to protest the increase in fuel price. As we write, news is reaching us that other Nigerians are being killed and injured by the police. We call on the Inspector General of Police, Mr Hafiz Ringim to immediately order his men to stop killing Nigerian citizens exercising their right to protest. We call on him to identify the officers who are doing these killing and whoever gave these officers the order to shoot and hand them over for prosecution. We demand a full investigation, in each case, into the circumstances that led to the death of these citizens in the hands of the police.
(3) We salute the indomitable spirit of the Nigerian people at this momentous period in our national experience. We remember and mourn the heroes and heroines who, at various times in our history, have paid the supreme price and watered our collective struggle for a fair and just society with their blood. We stand on their giant shoulders today as we take to the streets for a rendezvous with history! Their sacrifices shall never be in vain!
(4) We call on every Nigerian to join this epochal effort aimed at sending a clear message to our failed leaders and politicians that we are no longer accepting heartless, hare-brained and thoughtless policies from them. Nigerians have sacrificed too much for their ‘high maintenance leadership’.
(5) We reject the notion that this action by organised labour and civil society groups and the Nigerian people at home and abroad is in breach of a court injunction issued by the President of the National Industrial Court, Mr Babatunde Adejumo, restraining the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) from embarking on the planned ‘strike action’. We support this action, because it is not in breach of any law or any validly given order of a court seized of appropriate jurisdiction. This is not a protest against working conditions or any issue under the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court. This is a peaceful civil disobedience action by the Nigerian people. No court injunction can stop civil disobedience anywhere and certainly not in a democracy. Organized labour and civil society groups involved are not involved in order to negotiate workers’ pay or working condition; they are, like other Nigerians, involved in protest against bad political, economic and social policies of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
(6) We call on President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly to stop the non-progressive politics they are playing with the future of the nation forthwith and deal with the national economic, social and security emergencies in our hands. Nigerians know that those who run our nation’s affairs at the topmost levels are the epitome of corruption and that corruption is the cause of most of the problems we face as a nation. This explains why government is challenged when it comes to solving even the most basic problems.
(7) Corruption has hobbled the Nigerian Police to the extent that they are no match for the ragtag army of insurgents calling themselves Boko Haram. Years of mismanagement and embezzlement of security allocations, which meant no training, no modern law enforcement equipment and in fact, no good condition of service, has seen the police itself reduced to a security liability as an institution. Even the Joint Task Force JTF) originally deployed to handle the Boko Haram menace has quickly distinguished itself by its corrupt extortion of motorists, love of cheap liquor and penchant for extrajudicial killing.
(8) The same tendency rules the oil industry. We are in a situation where Nigeria that produces good quality oil has to import extremely poor quality and indeed dangerous fuel to run its economy. The President presides over the dissipation of the oil money through a vast network of patronage, prebendal dependants on the state, and national and international criminal fronts. With the vast sums of money we make from this product, no attempt is being made to diversify the economy, except via glib talks and photo opportunities. Now, Nigerians are being told that it’s a cabal of oil demons that benefit from this subsidy, but rather than deactivate this cabal and spread the benefit of such an action to the people, the Jonathan Goodluck government, a great friend to this cabal, thinks it is the people that should suffer.
(9) We note that the House of Representatives has had an emergency session on Sunday 8 January, 2012, making a resolution lacking in force and conviction. It is a shame that they only had this emergency session and released such a tepid statement in order to avoid its premises being picketed by Nigerians during this period of civil disobedience! They knew the problem was there before they went on recess, they knew the problem will come to a head; but they abdicated responsibility and hoped to be absolved from blame, because it’s apparently an executive problem! As for the Senate, most of its members seemed to have worked very hard to earn national odium. Their priorities are certainly not the nation’s priorities. Nigeria has never had it so bad in terms of leadership!
(10) Our nation needs strong and honest leadership now! Strong leadership begins when the President understands the power of the personal example. We call on the President and the National Assembly to begin the process of arresting this drift before darkness falls. If they don’t, they stand a good chance of going down in history as the leadership that sat over the disintegration of Nigeria with the consequential losses in human lives and material resources.
(11) The President declared a State of Emergency on 31 December, 2011 in certain Local Governments in four states. He did it against the spirit and intendment of the Constitution and without proper consultation and preparation, which is why the security crisis continues unabated. As we speak, the National Assembly is yet to sit to approve this Proclamation, which invariably means it is only as good as the paper the President has written it on. By midnight of 9 January 2012, without approval by two-thirds majority of all members of the National Assembly, it will simply cease to have effect by virtue of the provisions of Section 305(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999). There is no better advert for irresponsible governance!
(12) We call on the National Assembly to resume immediately and to pass the Proclamation for the State of Emergency immediately. If they resume more than ten days after the presidential proclamation, then the President should immediately repeal the original one in line with the provisions of Section 305(6)(a) and present a new one immediately to be passed by the National Assembly within two days as constitutionally required under Section 305(6)(b). The President must ensure that the details of the Proclamation contain enough to handle the security challenges in these places with clear provisions for respect for the rule of law, which means no extrajudicial killing of any sort and no excuse of using the guise of emergency powers to terrorise law-abiding citizens. This is a law and order issue in a democracy and it must be dealt with as such.
(13) Furthermore, both Houses of the National Assembly must during this same session immediately declare the removal of the fuel subsidy illegal. Such fundamental economic decision needed the full contribution of the National Assembly. The National Assembly must hear from representatives of every stakeholder in the matter. They must hear from civil society, representatives of the petroleum industry and marketers and government and their mandarins. Let us all come to the National Assembly to make the case for or against subsidy and let our national laws thereafter reflect the truth we speak on the floor of that Assembly. We are a constitutional democracy and the President and the predators causing the rest of us grief through bad governance must be constitutionally stopped!
(14) We call on the National Assembly to begin to show the required leadership now that it seems the President isn’t ready. We elected them there to check the executives when they get too big for their boots! So, it’s time they do that job of checking the executive now or they have the Nigerian people to answer to, individually and collectively.
(15) Failure is no longer an option!
Isa Muhammad Jiddah Alfadlah
Modupe Debbie Ariyo
Usman Bala Mohammed
Julius Izuagie Umogbai Cfr
(For and on behalf of The 1960 Collective)