by on Apr.19, 2013, under constitution vol 2 no.3
(A JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL
Copyright © 2001 Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation (CENCOD)
This country report was presented by the Centre for Constitutionalism and militarization at the Network Meeting on Demilitarisation in West Africa held on ember 5, September 2001 in Lagos at the instance of the Centre and Ford Foundation.
In appraising the extent of demilitarisation in Nigeria, a cursory look into our immediate past would afford us an insight into the degree of commitment by the present civilian administration to demilitarizing the polity.
The catalysts for the pioneering effort at demilitarization in the sub-region were inter-tribal war, inter-state war, domination, fear of domination, maladministration, gross violations of human rights perpetrated by tyrannical regimes across the continent. With particular reference to Nigeria, the level of militarization of the country by the last three military regimes could be characterized in one word: appalling.
The consequence of the entrenched militarization of the country is evident in frequent inter and intra ethnic conflicts, mass poverty, unemployment, brazen looting of the treasury, nepotism. assassination. Incarceration without trial. and flagrant violation of court orders. In response to the officially institutionalized violence the civil populace found outlet in armed insurgence, armed robbery, interethnic armed confrontation and oil pipeline vandalization.
Viewed against the fore-going background and mindful of the fact that demilitarization is a process, a periodic appraisal of that process in Nigeria would reveal the disparity between authority’s connnfment and official rhetorics.
The evaluation of the extent of demilitarization in Nigeria since the inception of the present civilian administration would be based on socio-economic and political indices without which any objective assessment would be meaningless.
The country . as currently three major political parties, namely, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the All Peoples Party (APP) and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). These parties have respectively spheres of influence. The AD for instance controls state government in the South West of the country while the APP also controls some state government in North West and North Central North East of Nigeria. The growing agitation for more parties will like to provide more room for wider political participation notwithstanding, the deliberate limiting of political space for participation through fixation on a second term in office without fulfilling earlier electoral, promises. The slavish endorsement of the incumbent to re-contest by parties; the frequent expulsion of members from the ruling party on frivolous charges and the unacceptable arrogation of power to `Independent’ Electoral Commission to register political parties amount to a limitation of political space. Besides, the country still totters under the defective 1999 Constitution. Review efforts by the presidency, the legislature and the civil society are yet to have any impact on the document.
The civic society seems to provide some optimism. Its strength has also increased. There is proliferation of civil society and community- based organisations which are responding to the imperatives of democratisation in Nigeria. However, the government has not fared better in the area of human rights.
In spite of Obasanjo Administration, avowed commitment to democracy, it has not demonstrated marked difference from the line of its predecessors. Since inception, the administration has made no pretensions righting the wrongs of the past, rather, available evidence suggests a deepening militarization of the polity. Repression, aggravation of poverty, armed repression of dissent, embezzlement of public fund and armed robbery have blighted the record of the administration. Few instances will suffice. On November 20, 1999 Nigerian troops invaded the community of Odi in the oil- rich Niger-Delta. Houses were demolished and about 500 lives were lost. On January 19, 2000, the International Press Center in Lagos was raided and a press briefing by the Nation by members of Oodua Liberation Movement was stopped. In an extra judicial case, the police killed Adetaye Agbaha final year student of Delta State University in Delta State of Nigeria.
State governments took their cue in rights violation from the federal government. Cases of executive Lawlessness reminiscent of the military era abound. In November 1999, Chimaroke Nnamani the Governor of Enugu State was accused of murdering Sunday Ugwu, in the same vein, Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State was implicated in the murder of three persons: The Kano State Deputy Governor in pursuance of the Islamic legal code, Sharia, led destruction of hotels and restaurants in Sabon Gari area of Kano State while in Edo State Gov. Lucky Igbinedion employed the Illegal Edo State Vigilante service to witch-hunt political opponents. In the sharia enclaves of Bauchi, Kano Sokoto and Zamfara States human rights are violated with impunity. Public lashing, stoning and amputation of limbs for minor offences were routinely carried out.
Poverty is the worst form of violence. It could result in unbridled militarisation. The standard of living of Nigerians has not improved. It is further aggravated by the massive devaluation of the national currency, the naira; mass unemployment, casualization of workers, armed robbery, kidnapping, child trafficking and embezzlement of public fund in high places. Efforts at addressing poverty have proved abortive. The disbursement of 10 billion naira for poverty alleviation (paltry sum when compared with 13 billion naira allocated for the construction of Abuja Stadium, or with 22 billion naira budgetary allocation to the 555member federal legislators) has not improved the lot of Nigerians. According to President Olusegun Obasanjo “the funds were cornered by state officials who use the same for political patronage”.
With the parlous state of the economy, life expectancy, in fact mortality rate has worsened. This fact is aptly captured by Prof. Lucas, Chairman Foundation Council of Global Forum for Health Research, thus “…Nigeria Health System is sick, very sick and is in urgent need of intensive care. It is behind, lacking in vision of its goal …the summary index of performance of health system by WHO 2000 report ranking of its 191 member countries put Nigeria in 187 position ahead of Sierra Leone and three other countries in crises”.
The Roll Back Malaria campaign has not yielded any visible result, malaria-induced out- patients continue to rise, decrepit hospitals turned consulting clinics are common sight.
More than two years after the inception of the administration, social infrastructures and public utilities schools, colleges, University colleges, roads at (local state and federal level) refineries are in various states of disrepair, prompting strikes and worsening living conditions. The dire consequences of dilapidated infrastructure is reflected in the worsening energy condition, the scandalous disappearance of Nigeria’s staple food gari and beans, and increase in organized armed robbery.
Efforts at demilitarizing the polity through the subordination of the military institution to civil authority has commenced, albeit, slowly. The mass retirement in March 2000 of 349 officers from the 2nd Lt. to Major General, the retirement of service Chiefs in April 2001. Besides, there is an ongoing professionalisation of the military at the instance of the government and the US outfit, Military Professional Resources Initiative (MPRI) as well as British Service Personnel. However the non appearance of the three former military rulers before the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission Headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa and the Code Conduct Bureau in spite of several summons derogates from the overall civil control of the military. Yet the words of the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Alex Ogomudia to the armed forces to the effect that “We are in a democratic setting and we must have respect for the laws and orders of the land…” point to a promising future of civil control of the military in the body politic.
The educational policy is disoriented and mired in official indecision and controversy over which of the three tiers of government should control the primary education. According to the speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Alhaji Umar Na’Aba “there is a profound interest in the plight of children …the Fed government is implementing these Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme which would make education compulsory”. Two years later, it is yet to be translated in practical terms. In the Southern part of the country, the urban/commercial cities teems with under-aged children engaged in menial jobs and other none descript survival strategies. The Northern states teem with an army of Almajiris, destitute who daily solicits for alms. These realities put a question mark on government’s commitment to UBE and poverty eradication.
In the sub-region, West African, the development of a progressive world outlook in form of a well-articulated ideology which could serve as a guide towards socio-economic, cultural and political development is lacking. For instance non-of the existing three political parties in Nigeria is committed to any welfarist or socialist ideology. The development of and commitment to a progressive world outlook is correlated with the development of democratic culture; tolerance of opposing view-point, mutual respect, openness, accountability and responsibility. The prevalence of inter-and intra-ethnic rivalry inhabits the development of progressive world-view. Nigeria and Cameroon squabble over Bakassi regardless of the wish of the inhabitants. Within Nigeria, boundary disputes between Akwa Ibom and Cross River States; Ife/Modakeke communal crises; the Ijaw/Illaje feud and the mutual suspicious between t he North and South.
Good governance, lack of political will, and inadequate mechanism for equitable sharing of resources and pervasive weakness of regional integration structures are obstacles to the development in the sub-region. It is exp ected that ECOWAS-initiated socio-economic programmes such as the West African Power Pool (WAPP), the proposed single currency, the scrapping of checkpoints within the region, and the establishment of West African B io-diversity and Biotechnology Training Course should further strengthened the existing multi- lateral agreements and offer the needed succor to the impoverished and traumatized inhabitants of the region.
The benefits derivable from international relations is decidedly lopsided and serve to further militarize and polarize the world into two camps: the economically and militarily strong on one side and the economically/military weak on the other. The threats to peaceful coexistence of all nations are two dimensional: military and economic. The military-dimension to the militarization of the world derives from Washington’s siege-mentality, and her fixation on implementing the missile-shield programme-a clear breach of Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). This is most likely to fuel arms proliferation and increase global tension.
The economic dimension to militarization is globalization, an economic phenomenon that is drawing inexorably the weak economies of poor nations into the economic orbits of the advanced nations in a one-sided arrangement that denudes and expropriates the resources of poor nations through brain drain, debt servicing, cheap raw material and environmental pollution etc. The consequences will be the intensification of poverty, armed confrontation over resources,
and escalation of refugee problems. And Nigeria is currently cut up in the neo- liberal web with wholesale privatization of public assets.