The Stop Impunity Nigeria (S.I.N.) Campaign last month held a “Week of Action Against Impunity” (WAAI) to draw public attention to the high rate of impunity in the rule of law sector and called on all Nigerians “to put pressure on our leaders to take urgent and deliberate steps to reverse the situation.”
The Week of Action Against Impunity is held quarterly by the Campaign and last month’s edition was for the first quarter of 2014.
The week was flagged off with a press conference to announce the planned activities as well as to launch a Research Report published by Human Development Initiatives (HDI) on behalf of the Campaign.
The report, titled: “Impunity in Nigeria: Knowledge, Attitude and Perception,” is outcome of a national survey which was conducted by HDI, to investigate the manifestations, dimensions, trajectories and dynamics of impunity in Nigeria with a view to developing data-driven programmes for addressing the problem.
The Press Conference was held at the Ladi Lawal Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos Branch Secretariat in Ikeja and was addressed by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA); Ms Jennifer Onyejekwe, MRA’s Deputy Executive Director; and Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, HDI’s Executive Director and Coordinator of the Campaign.
Mr. Ojo explained that the campaign is collaborative effort by a multi-stakeholder group made up of civil society organizations, religious bodies and a Federal Government agency, aimed at re-orienting Nigerians and promoting new ethical values to free the country from the debilitating effects of impunity.
According to him, the implementing civil society organizations are: HDI, MRA, Community Life Project (CLP), and the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which have entered into strategic partnerships with three key organizations, namely the National Orientation Agency (NOA), a Federal Government agency, as well as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella body for members of the Christian faith in Nigeria, and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), which is similarly the umbrella body for members of the Muslim faith.
Mr. Ojo said: “Impunity is akin to a cancer that has stunted Nigeria’s social, economic and political development as well as the progress of its people and the campaign is borne out of this realization, that Nigeria’s development challenges are in a large measure the direct result of a culture of impunity which has gradually taken root in all sectors of the society over the last several decades.”
He noted that “impunity continues to fuel corruption by both government officials and ordinary citizens while also diminishing the capacity of the government to govern,” adding that “we are all daily assailed by case after case of impunity, which demonstrate convincingly that a substantial number of those entrusted with power in Nigeria have abused such powers for private gain, without fear of punishment or any form of accountability.”
Mr. Ojo said “To get an indication of how far we have fallen in this regard, take a quick look at the 2014 Rule of Law Index recently released by the World Justice Project. It ranks Nigeria as number 93 out of 99 countries in the world surveyed while in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is ranked as number 16 out of 18 countries surveyed.”
He therefore called on everyone to join the week of action “to draw attention to this deplorable situation and to put pressure on our leaders to take urgent and deliberate steps to reverse the situation because you too are victims of the crisis of the rule of law in Nigeria.”
Giving an overview and rationale for the Week of Action, Ms Onyejekwe explained that the focus on the rule of law sector was “motivated by need to draw urgent attention to the failures in the administration of justice and widespread non-compliance with laws, established rules and procedures brought about by the problem of impunity in Nigeria.”
She called on all Nigerians, including civil society organizations, the Media, professional bodies, trade unions and other sectors to support the Week of Action by carrying out activities in protest against impunity in Nigeria, particularly in the rule of law and the administration of justice sectors.
Ms Onyejekwe said the campaign would undertake advocacy visits to various individuals and institutions in different parts of the country during the Week of Action, including religious leaders, traditional rulers, media organizations, political authorities, heads of selected public institutions, opinion leaders, among others, and that the advocacy visits would be carried out in Anambra, Lagos and Sokoto States as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
She also announced that the campaign would organize Community Forums during the Week to discuss the issues of impunity and its effects on communities in Nigeria and that the Forums would held on Saturday, March 29, in Kaduna State and Lagos State.
According to her, the Campaign also planned to host several town-hall meetings across the country during the Week and that those meetings were aimed at sensitizing citizens on the need to uphold the rule of law and to support the campaign. The Town-hall meetings were to be held in Rivers, Anambra, Lagos and Sokoto States.
Ms Onyejekwe said the Campaign would convene and coordinate a marathon tweeting session on Twitter on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 to sensitize and mobilize youths and students around the country on the challenges of impunity in Nigeria.
Coordinated from the offices of Media Rights Agenda in Lagos, the Tweet-A-Thon would be led by a group of young people to raise awareness about the problem of impunity and encourage other youths to join efforts to put an end to it. The tweeting session would begin at 8:00am and run non-stop until 5:00pm and would focus, among others, on the challenges in the rule of law sector, in the administration of justice, in the inadequacy of the judicial system in confronting the problem of corruption and other forms of impunity in Nigeria.
She explained that the plan was also to tweet on the issue of impunity, its consequences and possible remedies. She called on youths and other concerned citizens around the country to join the conversations on Twitter, using the hashtag #WAAI and to speak out against impunity.
In addition, Ms Onyejekwe said, the campaign would air jingles on radio and television stations in different parts of the country throughout the Week to sensitise Nigerians on the issue. The jingles were to air from Monday, March 24 to Friday, March 28 from 4pm to 11pm on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) stations in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Kano and Port Harcourt as well as on Wazobia FM radio stations in Abuja and Lagos.
Ms Onyejekwe urged other Nigerians to join the campaign by using their media platforms such as blogs and websites, to raise awareness of the issue and the campaign and to mention the Campaign in their email signatures as well as forward messages from the Campaign to everyone on their address lists or join the Campaign’s social media platforms.
Launching the report titled “Impunity in Nigeria: Knowledge, Attitude and Perception,” Prof. Owasanoye said: “In Nigeria, years of military dominance in governance created and entrenched the culture of impunity. The military ruled with absolute disregard for the rule of law and so created a national psyche of ‘militarization’. This has persisted till date, despite more than a decade of steady democratic governance, where it is expected that public conscience and accountability would drive development. However, the reverse is the case.”
He explained that the “explored and examined the impunity domains, corridors and trajectories in Nigeria,” adding that it “was a blend of primary data and secondary ones with robust methodology.”
Prof Owasanoye noted that important findings were made, among which is “the fact that impunity is very prevalent in Nigeria and people are aware of it and want it stopped with the political rich class being more culpable.”
He said the research also showed that law enforcement agencies are also not living up to responsibilities.
According to him, “most Nigerians want impunity to stop in the country due to its negative development implication. Hence, most Nigerians do not have fixated and jaundiced affinity for impunity and are convinced impunity can be stopped if the political class and everyone do things right as against the current scenario where people do not make informed moral decisions for public good.”
Prof Owasanoye expressed optimism about the challenge, saying “the impunity situation in the country is not hopeless and can be minimized in the short run and eradicated in the long run. If there is enough political will and propensity to show leadership by the rulers and the rich, the end of impunity may be nearer than imagined but all must also be willing and ready to join the campaign and fight against impunity in Nigeria.”
He stressed that “based on findings from the survey as presented in this report, it is very appropriate to conclude that there is ‘moral outrage’ against impunity in Nigeria.”
The high point of the Week of Action was the marathon tweeting session, tagged: Tweet-A-Thon, which galvanized young people and other Nigerians from across the country in a sustained discussion and debate on the manifestations and effects of impunity on the country throughout the day, on Wednesday, March 24, which continued for at least two days after the Tweet-A-Thon had formally come to an end.
The tweeting session provided a data fest of information on impunity and how to uphold the Rule of Law.
TweetArchivist put the number of impressions during the tweeting session at 1,354,769, while Hashtracking for the hashtag #WAAI put the reach at 72,050 accounts with timeline deliveries at 1,066,968.