What's Happening In Nigeria?
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Nigerians and allies are planning to launch international protests across major cities on June 12th, in response to severe government mismanagement and inefficiency. The protestors demand three items overall from governing officials.
"1. End the killings and insecurity.
2. End the social media shutdown immediately.
3. Convene an Emergency inter-regional dialogue committee for all regions in Nigeria (within a month)."
So why are Nigerian's protesting?
Activists in Nigeria say that in the last six months: "Over 1,000 children and students have been kidnapped by terrorists. Over 3,000 people have been kidnapped by armed bandits for ransom. Over 2,6000 people have been murdered by armed herders. Over 500 people have been killed in cult clashes. Over 600 people have been killed in communal crises. Dozens of soldiers have been killed by ISIS and Boko haram. Hundreds of police have been killed by gunmen."
Activists also say that today: "More than 10 million people are displaced across Nigeria. Over 40 million youths are unemployed. Food, water, and gas prices are rising. More than 150 million Nigerians live in perpetual hunger and poverty. There are severe civil rights violations by the government. The is a suspension of the Rule of Law and constitution. There is endless harassment of citizens. And there is an Internet Shutdown that is crippling communications between communities. Not only with protestors but organizers, businesses, and other branches of society that depend on it for valuable information"
Why COVID19 was the last straw in Nigeria
The Covid-19 pandemic turned Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape upside down and exposed serious failings in governance. Authorities have declared “lockdowns” in most states, requiring residents to stay indoors and for businesses to close, except for certain essential services, this has shrunk Nigeria's economy by at least 6 percent. The government failed to provide for large portions of the population that were left unable to afford food and other basic necessities.
Before Covid-19, over 90 million Nigerians lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day; the World Bank projected that Covid-19 will push 5 million more into poverty. The pandemic also exposed Nigeria's inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which mostly took care of the affluent and wealthy while casting away the poor. In Lagos State, the poor, many of whom rely on daily wages for subsistence, did not receive any economic relief, aid, or a second thought from the government. Anti-impunity sentiments also surged due to the Police's use of excessive and often lethal force to enforce lockdowns, many people were killed according to human rights groups like the NHRC.
Due to COVID19 schools in Nigeria were shut for at least six months, affecting about 37 million children, many students did not have access to online education nor did the government take responsibility. In September 2020, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) revealed it had found payments totaling 2.67 billion naira (about $6.9 million) were made to federal colleges for school meals during the lockdown and deposited in the personal accounts of officials. The ICPC said that the money diverted into personal accounts was paid when children were not in school.
Covid-19 also highlighted Nigeria’s failed humanitarian response in the northeast region, where the government’s war with Boko Haram is now in its 11th year, has left over 7.5 million people traumatized, displaced, and in need of humanitarian assistance. The number of dead is impossible to confirm. Insecurity in the region has risen as Boko Haram and its splinter faction, Islamic State West Africa Province (I.S.W.A.P), continue attacks against civilian, humanitarian, and military targets. According to H.R.W. least 363 civilians were killed by the Islamist insurgents between January and September 2020.
In August 2020, Nigerian authorities in Borno State declared they were going to send 1,860,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees back to their communities, which they fled due to lack of security, a service the government is required to provide but has so far failed to do so. Soon after Boko Haram insurgents attacked the community and abducted at least 100 people. Despite the lack of security and ongoing terrorist attacks, the government continued to return the Nigerian refugees from Cameroon by force. In many parts of Nigeria intercommunal violence has continued to grow out of control as herder-allied armed groups, vigilantes, and organized crime has led to the murder of countless civilians, a growing trend of kidnapping for ransom, and the theft and smuggling of cattle.
The widespread femicide, rape, and violence against women and girls has grown out of proportion and has been declared a national emergency. The national emergency was called after thousands of people pressured the government to do so. They were angered by the femicide of Vera Uwaila Omosuwa, a 22- year old microbiology student at the University of Benin, Edo State who was raped and brutally assaulted after she went to study in a church.
Amid the protests for Omouswa, news media reported the case of a 12-year-old girl gang raped by 11 men in Jigawa state, generating further outrage against the violence. An estimated two million Nigerian women and girls are raped annually, according to Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, few of the cases are reported, and when they are fewer are prosecuted, due to the stigma associated with being a rape survivor, fear of reprisals, and distrust of the authorities.
The government has also failed thousands of people with mental health conditions. Institutional abuse of the mentally ill is rampant and common with many remain chained and locked up inhumanely. The facilities they are held in include state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities.
Why Protest Now?
In October 2020 following more revelations of the abuses of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police, mass protests happened throughout the major cities of Nigeria. It was called the End SARS movement it is a decentralized social movement, which swept across Nigerian communities worldwide. The movement was accompanied by social media awareness campaigns across every platform. Solidarity protests and demonstrations by Nigerians in diaspora and allies occurred in many major cities of the world. The movement has since expanded to include demands for good and accountable governance.
Today the organizations, individuals, and decentralized groups that sprung from the END SARS movement continue to organize and campaign for good governance and against impunity, and injustice. In June 2021, the Buhari government banned Twitter where millions of Nigerians gather to get information about ongoing events in their region and worldwide. With the danger of being cut off completely from the outside world young Nigerians and allies are planning massive worldwide protests. With an unreliable government and increasing violence all across the country, many people have had enough and they demand a better quality of life, good governance, dignity, and respect.