• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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How rights violation, disregard for rule of law in Nigeria keep investors at bay


Nigeria’s economy is in a poor state at the moment. A myriad of factors contributed to this precarious condition, but none appears to have the potential to drive away or keep investors at bay than Nigeria’s human rights record under the current administration.

When President Muhammadu Buhari was being inaugurated in 2015, he promised to respect the rights of Nigerians and the rule of law, but analysts say that facts on ground appear to have proven his administration behaves otherwise.

The rave of the moment in the streak of human rights violations under the Buhari administration is the current travails of Omoyele Sowore, convener of #RevolutionNow protest and activist, in the hands of the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS). The secret police has come under scathing condemnation over the alleged illegal re-arrest of Sowore on Friday, December 6 after the agency had released him the previous day on court orders.

The nation and the international community were stunned when reports and some video clips emerged that the DSS operatives, had allegedly stormed the courtroom to disrupt court proceedings in order to re-arrest Sowore on the said date. Some reports said Ijeoma Ojukwu, the presiding judge, was forced to withdraw to her inner chambers to avoid any harm to her.

Sowore was arrested on August 3 in Lagos and he spent more than 120 days in DSS detention over his planned protests on August 5 with #RevolutionNow, which the government considered as treasonable felony. The DSS has allegedly ignored several court orders to release him. The #RevolutionNow protest, however, took place in Abuja and other states of the federation especially the south, where the authorities deployed the police in Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and others to disperse the protesters. About three people were reportedly killed while many were injured as they staged protests against the biting economic hardship and the increasing level of insecurity in the land.

Although the DSS, through its spokesman, Peter Afunanya, in a statement, claimed the publisher of Sahara Reporters, only acted a drama in court with his supporters to bring the DSS to disrepute,

Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, wondered “If Sowore’s supporters subjected him to such brutalisation in the presence of DSS operatives, and why were they not arrested for contravening the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017? Or were the DSS operatives expecting the supporters of a defendant wanted by the state to kill him in their presence?”

The DSS also allegedly re-arrested Sowore without warrant of arrest and detention order, a development that has angered many and increased agitation for his release from further detention.

Another disturbing case of rights violation is that of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, whose rights have been trampled upon. The former NSA is accused of embezzling funds meant to fight the Boko Haram insurgency. The DSS has refused to release Dasuki after about five court orders, including an order from the ECOWAS Court ordering his release on bail.

Ibrahim el-Zakzaky represents yet another alleged despotism of the current administration. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) popularly called Shiites, has been in detention since he was arrested in 2015 following an army crackdown on his members in Zaria, Kaduna State, on December 12, 2018 in which nearly 400 of the sect members were allegedly killed by soldiers over an allegation that the sect plotted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. He was also accused of leading a group that breaches public peace.

The panel of inquiry set up by the Kaduna State government recommended sanction against the perpetrators of the Shiites massacre but it is not clear if any action has been taken against them as the Shiites have continued to clash with the security agencies leading to more deaths, arrest and incarceration of the sect members.

The popular #BringBackOurGirls campaigners have also felt the fangs of the repressive nature of the state under Buhari. The leader of the group, and former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili and others such as Aisha Yesufu have faced police teargas and other forms of autocratic measures aimed at whittling their agitations for the release of the remaining Chibok girls in the Boko Haram captivity. Even their campaign venue, the popular Unity Fountain, has been closed as the FCT administration claimed rehabilitation work was going on there.

The Sowore saga, El-Zakzaky, Dasuki and others have raised fears in many quarters that Nigeria was gradually sliding back to the days of dictatorship, when flagrant violation of the rule of law was the order of the day, with the collateral consequences for investment in the country.

Analysts fear that the DSS, the police and the army appear to have surrendered their professional callings to the dictates of the powerful cabal in government.

The analysts urged government to urgently halt the nation’s drift into anarchy to save the little investments in the country and to encourage investor-confidence in the interest of Nigeria’s teeming population.

Speaking to our correspondent on the consequences of human rights violations and abuse of rule of law on investment and economic development, Olisa Agbakoba, a Maritime lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said: “Nobody will invest in a disorderly environment; not even local investors. They cannot invest in a volatile area because a businessman calculates risk. Risk is the most important thing in an investment decision; so, the risk of doing business in Nigeria is extremely high. If Nigeria is rated as being a country in low-grade civil war, then it is not likely that heavy investment would want to come here; and if heavy investment does not come and it is likely that the poverty index will continue to grow.”

Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst and columnist, said: “Buhari cannot continue to claim to be a born-again democrat and a civilian president and yet continues to lead the country down the road of impunity and violation of the rule of law and constitutionalism.”

According to him, “When a country is known for respecting their own laws, people are confident to make long term and medium term investments in such countries because there is certainty of the system, it is working according to the dictates of the law. But in an atmosphere of uncertainty like we have now, it can affect your livelihood; it affects your investment and existence, nobody wants to come to such a country.”

Dahiru pointed out that “Even in monarchical system of government in the Arab Gulf states, they actually abide by the little laws they have been able to make. You don’t have the arbitrary rule there. So, Nigeria is simply on the path to being a pariah state if it continues like this. This is a typical African dictatorship that is devoid of any ideological leaning toward making their country prosperous, it is just power grab and misuse of it against the overall interest of the nation.”

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), lamented the flagrant abuse of human rights and rule of law going on under the current government, describing same as unprecedented, and that it calls for concern.

“Gradually, the reputation of government is fast collapsing because of its continued violation of human rights, coupled with the monumental corruption that is currently going on,” Rafsanjani said.

A former chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Martin Ogunleye, warned that the country would lose investor confidence, while equally attracting negative perception if the unfortunate trend persists.

“Yes, it is affecting investment; but it is gradual. What the security agencies are doing would negatively impact on foreign direct investment and the perception of the country among foreigners,” Ogunleye said.

“Investors are after profit; when the climate is not conducive, they don’t go or they pull out. Nobody would put his money in a country where they can be picked up on the way to work, harassed and detained against court order; that is what is happening with this Muhammadu Buhari administration.

“The problem is that the normal process of appointment of judges was changed. The process used to be very transparent, until it was abandoned. But because of the manner the judge’s appointments are made, it is difficult for them to stand their ground and hold the government accountable,” he said.

Eddy Olafeso, national vice-chairman (Southwest) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said the country was already losing investors due to the dictatorial tendencies of the current administration, stressing that the trend had damaged the reputation of Nigeria in the international community and investors.

“It is already affecting us; we have seen a reduction in investment into Nigeria decline in the last few years. In 2017, foreign direct investment to Nigeria was N4 billion, but reduced to N1billion in 2018. Until this government is changed through the ballot, don’t expect anything different,” he said.

Martin Onovo, an American-trained Petroleum Engineer and presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2015 general election, said: “Nigeria is now the worst terrorised country in the whole world. Before General Buhari came to power we were Number 4; today we are Number 3. That is a deterioration; we didn’t get better, we got worse. Now, look at corruption; it is worse than before; look at the economy – the five major indices in macro-economic evaluation are all negative: GDP (gross domestic product) is negative; debt is higher; currency is devalued; inflation is much higher and unemployment has more than doubled. So, the result is very clear.”


Innocent Odoh and Iniobong Iwok