Some civil society groups in Nigeria have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and end alleged harassment of civil society leaders in Niger Republic.
The groups in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES by one of its leaders, Jibrin Ibrahim, are demanding the release of persons they said were being unlawfully detained by the government of the neighbouring West African country.
Some civil groups involved in making this demand include Centre for Democracy and Development, Centre for Technology and Development, Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa, CISLAC, Say No Campaign, Protest to Power, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education, State of the Union, Zero Corruption Coalition, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Accountability Mechanism for Maternal New Born and Child Health in Nigeria, and Tax Justice and Governance Platform.
“Civil society leaders in Nigeria are extremely concerned about the way that President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger has been presiding over the harassment and detention of civil society leaders in Niger Republic,” the groups said.
They said over the past three years, civil society activists had come under siege from state actors in a crackdown that has led to a series of convictions, arrests and detentions affecting civil society leaders in Niger.
According to the groups, security agents’ raided offices of major civil society organisations in Niger and arrested 23 of their leaders on March 25 .
The statement listed the names of those arrested for participating in a demonstration and sent to jail without trial. It said a radio and television station, Radio et Télévision Labarai (RTL), was also closed down by the government.
“The context has been the rising poverty in the country, the rise of protests by civil society seeking to protect the people and the increasingly authoritarian response of the State and its security agencies.
“The latest wave of arrests followed the demonstration of thousands of Nigeriens against the austerity measures embedded in the 2018 budget.”
The civil society organisations in Nigeria therefore demanded immediate release of the detainees, a stop to the systematic harassment and serial arrest of civil society organisations and leaders, and “a review of the 2018 budget, which has significantly increased the austerity measures in Niger and increased the suffering and misery of the masses in Niger.”
The groups called on the people of Niger to continue with their struggle for the defense of democratic and civil rights in their country.
They also urged President Buhari, “in the spirit of good neighborliness and the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance” to intervene to “secure the release of civil society leaders and the edification of democracy and the rule of law,” in Niger Republic.