New bill to regulate civil society worries local groups

Association

bill to regulate civil society activities proposed by the House of Representatives is raising concerns in Nigeria. The bill seeks to establish a regulatory commission to monitor the work of civil society organisations. According to the Executive Director of civil society group the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), under the bill civil society and community groups including labor unions, professional associations, human rights organisations and other bodies would face intrusive and unwarranted surveillance of their operations.

Peaceful Assembly

Respect for freedom of peaceful assembly worsened in June and July as several violent protests took place in Nigeria. In Plateau State, four youths were allegedly shot dead by security operatives in Bokkos Local Council while protesting the murder of their paramount ruler and three of his family members. Following the killings, the Plateau State government placed the communities under a 24-hour curfew to prevent an escalation of the crisis. The shooting and killing of the four youths coincided with the visit of the Deputy Inspector-General of the Police, who came to commiserate with the people of Bokkos over the murder of their paramount ruler.

Meanwhile, protesters in Southern Nigeria's Edo State laid siege to an Anglican church in Amukpe, calling for the resignation of a local bishop. The protest was violently disrupted by soldiers, who were called on by the church's priest to instill order to protect bishops who were holding a meeting inside the building. Four women and one minor were hospitalised following the incident.

Finally, police arrested six students of Alvan Ikoku College of Education (AICE) following protests during which property worth millions, including the office complex of the University Provost, were destroyed. Students' grievances included an alleged increase in school fees and an insistence by the authorities that the students must pay before writing their exams.

There were also many peaceful protests in Nigeria in recent months. Nurses at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital suspended their 52-day-old strike as members returned to duty posts. They were protesting, among other things, the lack of promotion for members and the non-payment of salary arrears. Meanwhile, labour unions in Nasarawa State embarked on an indefinite strike on 4th July to protest the decision of the government to cut their salaries by 50 percent. Workers disregarded a threat by Governor Tanko Al-Makura that he would sack and replace any worker who does not resume duties.

Expression

During June and July, a number of incidents undermined respect for the right to freedom of expression in Nigeria. On 28th June, a prison officer assaulted journalists while they were trying to take pictures of an armed robber sentenced to death by a Lagos High Court. 

Five days earlier, youths attacked the Rhythm FM Radio & Silverbird Television station in Yenagoa, southern Nigeria, robbing the station's employees and dragging out two guests appearing on a live radio programme. This incident led to a temporarily shutdown of the station. 

Journalists covering public events were also attacked in recent months. In July, a journalist from Punch Newspaper was attacked while covering a protest by a faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association. Finally, on 27th June several journalists were hit by court security aides with the thick end of their guns. They were filming the arrival of the head of the Nigerian Senate and his deputy at the High Court in Abuja, where they had come to answer charges of forgery.