Saturday, 23 June 2012


For the benefit of those who do not fully understand all the ‘gobbledygook’ about political restructuring, let us consider the following poignant facts:

1. The Nature of Nigerian Federalism

Federalism as a system of government was first practiced in the United States of America. Whereas the American constitution was originally a con-federal document, providing for a very weak central government and granting full autonomy to the states, the federal arrangement, which was adopted in 1789, was a response to the series of problems which arose in the practice of confederation. Under confederation, the states treated the central government with utter disregard, even violating with impunity agreements they had voluntarily entered into. Federalism was therefore designed to strengthen the central government, in a manner that would not completely compromise the power of the states to act on behalf of their constituents. Under federalism, the American central government is therefore not weak, but strong with respect to its core functions, which include those things the states cannot effectively do for themselves as individual states, such as Defence, Foreign Policy, Control of Interstate Commerce and International Trade, and Currency Regulation. All other functions of government are carried out at the level of the states. Properly defined then, federalism is a system in which power is shared at two levels – the centre and the states or regions.

Nigeria’s founding fathers settled for a federal system of government at the time of the nation’s independence because they understood that Nigeria’s multi-ethnic nature required the kind of balancing of power that would prevent clashes of interest among the ethnic nationalities, and to enable each one develop at its own pace. But while the choice of the federal principle may have been appropriate in the light of the nation’s pedigree, the first model of it, which was operated between 1960 and 1966, actually created more problems than it solved. It had heavy colonial input in terms of its character and focus, and did not reflect the true nature of the nation’s political realities at the time. One of the three regions into which the country was divided at that time was a virtual monolith in both geographic size and population, easily dominating the other two in national politics. This unfortunate imbalance led to instability – the exact opposite of what was intended - which in turn resulted in military intervention in 1966. The military, relying on a deficient understanding of the problem, threw the baby out along with the bath water, by completely discarding federalism on coming to power in 1966, opting for a centralized system. 

Since then, Nigeria has remained a nominal federalism, with the sharing of power being heavily tilted in favour of the central government. For instance, all land in Nigeria and all natural resources in the states are owned and controlled by the central government, something that is not found in any other federal system. Nigeria’s central government has appropriated to itself functions and resources that properly belong to the states, such that the annual budget gives it over 50% of the nation’s revenue, while the states and local governments ‘share’ a little over 40%. This in turn has created a number of avoidable problems:

(i) The federal government has become clumsy, unwieldy, and without focus, with corruption and misuse of funds taking centre-stage in its operations;

(ii) The excess resources at the centre has occasioned a mad, unnatural scramble for the control of federal power, such as has often threatened the existence of the country itself;

(iii) At the centre, patriotism has been sacrificed on the altar of greed, avarice, and political expediency. Because the centre is far removed from the people, those who are privileged to serve there tend to see it as a kind of no-man’s-land, where they must obtain their ‘share of the national cake’, without bothering about how the ‘cake’ is baked or who bakes it;

(iv) The policy of ‘sharing’ revenue has had a negative effect on the psyche of state governments, such that rather than try to maximize opportunities for internally generated revenue, they sit pretty, and wait for subventions to come from the centre, which because of a weak accounting system, they quickly mismanage, and wait for the next month’s allocation. The net result is that the states have continually remained incapable of providing jobs and other amenities for their citizens, having so far failed to explore and develop their vast economic potentials; whereas in America, where federalism came from, the states control their own resources, and are thus able to develop their potentials and specialize economically, paying taxes as appropriate to the federal government;

(v) The excessive power at the centre has constantly been used against the people by those who have wielded it at various times. Federal power has too often been used to suppress human rights and subvert state institutions. Too many times, candidates have been imposed upon the people at various elections through the operation of federal power. What we have had since 1960 is an eloquent example of Mostesquieu’s submission that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The result is that democracy, rather than advance, has actually been in decline;

(vi) On the economic front, federal control of key sectors of the economy has led to economic decline due to corruption and mismanagement. When in the turn of the 80’s and 90’s the World Bank and other international donor institutions insisted on structural adjustment (which involved the privatization of key sectors) as a precondition for aid, leading officials of most African governments quickly sold off state owned concerns to themselves and their cronies, and this led to even greater economic failure. In this regard, Nigeria has been no exception, and this factor largely accounts for the failure of the nation’s privatization program of last two decades.

Commenting on this phenomenon with reference to Africa as a whole, former President of the World Bank, Barber Conable, while appraising the failure of World Bank and IMF policies in most African countries in the 1980’s said: “The development of many Sub-Saharan African countries has been quite unnecessarily constrained by their political systems. Africans can and must tackle this issue”. For us in Nigeria, I believe there is no other way out.

Thank you for reading this far. Please feel free to post questions and comments. Next we’ll be discussing Transparency and Accountability, Representation, and the Defective Structure of Government In The States.

No, Sir Femi Fani-Kayode, YOU ARE WRONG!

By Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri

This article is a rejoinder to Femi Fani-Kayode’s recent essay, Communities Harbouring Boko Haram Deserve the Odi Treatment”. 

I wish to respectfully, but vehemently disagree with the ideas, perceptions, bases and facts leading to the conclusions in Femi’s essay dated June 23, 2012 posted in African Herald Express. My disagreement is firmly hinged on Femi’s apparent lack of understanding of the intensity, scale and character of the insecurity situation in the northern part of the country. More so, the entire essay especially paragraph 5 contains some embarrassing fallacies, which are quite perturbing and extreme, coming from a man of his standing. Those fallacies will be the main focus of this rejoinder. 

First off, paragraph 5 reads in part:  “There must come a time when we as a people can boldly say ”enough is enough” and when we draw the line in the sand. And if Boko Haram crosses that line they must be confronted by the full force of the Nigerian Armed Forces who must be ready, willing and able to unleash hell on them regardless of the collateral damage and immense infrastructural destruction that this will cause in various parts of our country. President Olusegun Obasanjo did this decisively and with ruthless efficiency in the town of Odi in the Niger Delta area a number of years ago with remarkable success. By the time the Nigerian Armed Forces finished shelling Odi from the land, the sea and the air there was not one building left standing there except for, interestingly, the local bank. The casualties in terms of human life were extremely high but the point was made and the objective achieved. From that point on the Niger Delta militants stopped killing policemen and soldiers right up until the time that Obasanjo left power. Why can the same solution not be applied to the Boko Haram problem by the Jonathan administration today? What is the fear? Why should the same treatment not be meted out to any city or community in our country that grants the foot-soldiers of Boko Haram covert support, safe haven, sanctuary or shelter?”

FALLACY ONE: Femi imagines that the Boko Haram sect is a unique organization of some sort, with card-carrying members who have a special mark on their foreheads,  as would make them readily identifiable by anybody, including people and communities who habour them.  The truth is that every Nigerian is a potential victim, habourer, or member of the Boko Haram sect. That maiguard that lives in, and watches over Femi Fani-Kayode’s house; that aboki that repairs or polishes my shoes; that water vendor that serves most of Lagos communities without access to potable water; that security chief surrounded by gun-wielding and mean-looking soldiers….everybody, anybody could be a member or innocent habourer of the sect’s members. It is worthy of note that Boko Haram members are ordinary citizens like everyone else, except that they have a self-acclaimed wicked agenda: to punish, kill and destroy! Unmasking their identity is an exercise detectable by security expertise, tactful vigilance and collective surveillance. 

In the very least, applying Femi’s ‘decrees’ as summed in paragraph 5 above could be interpreted to mean that he is equally urging the United States of America to unleash drone attacks, air strikes, nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons on Nigeria since the country is habouring terrorists.  What a “patriotic” call! On that note, I am extending a call to Sir Femi Fani-Kayode to demonstrate leadership and martyrdom for the sake of Nigerian unity, by relocating with his family to the alleged Boko Haram-habouring communities, and be the first-known collateral damage, brought down in the name of countering terror. By so doing, Nigerians shall extol his virtues, and appropriately immortalize his name by renaming all streets and federal universities after him. 

FALLACY TWO: Femi again, expounds the uncharitable theory that collective punishment must always accompany, or flow from the felonies of a few individuals. This idea is consistent with the pervading culture of corruption and impunity in public office whereby the inactions of a few political leaders continue to inflict monumental social and economic deprivations and unrivaled poverty on the majority. Femi belongs to that political class that has continued to twist and manipulate both the judicial and legal systems in order to escape accountability. Today, the Senate Committee has launched a probe to investigate the linkages between the corruption-infested, incompetently-run aviation sector and the recurrent plane crashes. Femi has not attended these public sessions, nor has he given account of his stewardship to anyone. It is therefore not strange to continue to hold the view that collective punishment is befitting for Nigerians, especially when the bearers of the unjust mass punishments have neither the voice nor visibility to engage and challenge the structures of their disempowerment.

The communities alleged to be habouring Boko Haram are also victims of Boko Haram. In fact, they are the ones bearing the brunt of the crisis. In places like Budum in Maiduguri, Borno State that has been the locale of fiery bomb attacks and military invasions, residents live in total, perpetual fear. Their markets have been burnt; their homes and mosques have been demolished; their sons have been imprisoned; their wives and daughters have been assaulted; mothers have watched babies die in their hands because they could not access medical care in time due to curfews and shutdown of hospitals; young children have witnessed the murder and beheading of their parents; their businesses have been destroyed; their schools have been closed;  they have no money, no food, and totally stripped of their sources of livelihood.  Ordinary rural communities face the double blow of a military presence, which is routinely accompanied by a serious risk that they will be caught in the crossfire between the military and the Boko Haram members. The pains of this community are replicated across several northern states. 

When I interviewed the Parish Priest of St Patrick Catholic Church in Maiduguri that was bombed in June 2011, I asked him why he had stayed behind after all the nuns, catechists, mass servants and the religious have all fled. Lamenting the death of several indigenous members of the parish killed in the frequent crossfire between the sect and security forces, he said that he has been assigned to be there to continue to win souls for Christ. He would die there if the Lord willed it. If the government adopts Femi Fani-Kayode’s kill-them-all approach, this priest is among the categories of people that would die needlessly simply because he lives in a Boko Haram-infested region winning souls for Christ. After all, his death would be a mere collateral damage.

FALLACY THREE: Femi’s essay is deeply immersed in the erroneous assumption that those calling for dialogue are either sympathetic to the Boko Haram sect or are outrightly unpatriotic. SPACES FOR CHANGE’s latest study, in which I participated in, made similar calls for dialogue. The study concluded that any credible peace process must involve all parties to the conflict, including representatives of the government, the crisis-torn communities, members of the Boko Haram sect, religious leaders in the region and victims/survivors of the attacks. A framework for discussion, a forum for articulating grievances, and a well-developed agenda are all needed to begin a negotiation process that will lead to a comprehensive solution of the relevant political, economic and security problems. 

Again, I disagree that Goodluck Jonathan’s heeding of those calls is symptomatic of weakness. No sir, that is not correct.  In fact, paragraph 7 and 8 of Femi’s essay are full of contradictions. In one breath, he describes dialogue proponents and the government’s acceptance of same as a “shameful display of weakness, incompetence and insensitivity when faced with their terror”. Yet, in another breath, Femi openly advocates for the speedy convocation of a Sovereign National Conference. “That, in my view, is the only vehicle that can provide a lasting solution to the monumental challenges that we are facing in our country today, including the scourge of Boko Haram”, Femi says.  Is an SNC not a form of a dialogue? Was Femi advocating for a war-like engagement, baptized as SNC?

FALLACY FOUR:  Femi’s essay is totally disconnected from current realities, and effectively reflects his sheer misunderstanding of the complex dynamics of the crisis in northern Nigeria. That again is not his fault, but only a manifestation of the huge, and still widening disconnect between the governing and the governed. In my previous Boko Haram-focused investigation, ‘In the Killing Fields of Maiduguri”, I observed that key representatives of the present administration have not visited Borno State ever since the spate of bombings began in order to make a first-hand assessment of the volatile situation in the state, and show solidarity with affected families. In the past, such official visits to flashpoints have been found to provide an opportunity for the nations leadership to douse tension, identify with and share in the pains of a section of the country in trouble as well as starve off exodus by assuring fear-stricken Nigerians living in those areas of guaranteed security.   

Beyond cosmetic, over-photographed visitations and well-rehearsed tear-shedding at a few emergency spots, it is not the habit of “leaders” and politicians to make deliberate efforts to ‘step into the shoes’ of the suffering majority. Their understanding of any situation is only restricted to what news broadcasts showing on hi-tech laser TV screens churn out or what bigoted sycophants present as the truth. So, its easy to forgive Femi Fani-Kayode on this count. That is a longstanding practice he met on ground. He did not start it.

FALLACY FIVE: Femi Fani-Kayode’s celebration, endorsement and approval of genocide as a strategy for curbing Boko Haram insurgency is rather very very unfortunate. It clearly reaffirms that the Nigerian political class have scant regard for human lives, especially if it is the lives of the poor that are at stake. What happened at Odi, is a crime against humanity, deserving of the kind of treatment and punishment meted onto Pinochet. Saddam Hussein, Charles Taylor et al. Practices in China in 1937 between Chinese and Japanese Forces, the Korean conflict of 1950-1953, and other conflicts revealed the tendency of states to apply most of the rules governing war strictu sensu in non-war hostilities. The necessity for the increased protection of the civilian population and of the civilian objectives in time of armed conflict led to the convening of the Geneva Conference of 1974 – 1977 on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts, and adopted as additional to the Red Cross Conventions of 1949, Protocols I& II.  The essential purpose of these rules is to reduce or limit the suffering of individuals, and to circumscribe the area within which the savagery of armed conflict is permissible. 

Femi’s essay and decree for a repeat of the Odi massacre constitutes a slap on global efforts to minimize the horror communities caught in the web of conflict are facing. Again, to err is human, to forgive is divine. After all, forgiving the numerous, continuing blunders by politicians has become the pastime of most Nigerians. And here again, Sir Femi Fani-Kayode is forgiven. May he go and sin no more.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


By Chris Nwokocha 
 When Dr Martin Luther King jnr stood up alongside others to insist on civil rights for blacks in the United States, many people, even fellow clergymen, criticised him for being 'impatient'. They felt that King and others like him should 'wait', and allow 'time and events' to sort out the issue of civil rights for blacks. They were sufficiently certain that 'with time', the natural course of history would solve the problem. 
But in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr king pointed out to his critics that 'time' by its nature is neutral. He observed that both the evil man and the good man were capable of using 'time' to achieve whatever aims they set out to, and that if the good man failed to use it while the evil man did so, society would only be filled with evil, and the good man, for all his goodness, would never see his desires materialise because he stayed passive while the evil man worked. Dr King in his submissions, actually echoed a stream of thought that had been voiced in an earlier era by British statesman Edmund Burke, who lived during the 18th century and served for several years in the House of Commons.  Burke, in calling for action with regard to the burning issues of his day said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"

Today, the American society is all the better for the work that Dr King and others did. Even fifty years ago, no one could have imagined that a black man would one day sit in the Oval Office as President of the United States, but owing to the long and hard battle fought by Dr King and his colleagues, and the great sacrifices they made many years ago, it is a reality today.

For too long, we have remained passive while our society burned. We have watched, while our values were turned upside down. The looting politician, the terrorist, the armed robber etc, have all been working while we took the role of spectators. But I believe that the time has come when as a people, we must take our destiny in our own hands. The urgency for this has never been greater at any time than now. We must stand up while we still can, and say no to the evils holding our nation hostage today. We must decide what kind of society we want and insist on having the freedom to build it.
 Several years ago, I went to interview Prof Omo Omoruyi, former Head of the Centre for Democratic Studies. I asked him a question on the "Economic Reforms" of then President Obasanjo, and he dismissed the former President with the wave of a hand. I can never forget what Prof Omoruyi said to me on why he didn't believe in Obasanjo's policies. He said: "We have to agree first on how we're going to live together before deciding how much money we want to make." In other words, political restructuring, before economic reforms, not the other way round. 
With the benefit of hind sight, we know that Obasanjo's economic reforms, which centred on privatization and deregulation, failed woefully. In one of the first courses I took in UI's Department of Political Science, my lecturer then, Dr Onyeoziri (now Prof), taught us that "the essence of politics is the formulation and execution of public policy". Governance is not magic. It is not a mystery. It functions on an imput/output principle, just like it is in a manufacturing plant. In other words, if you put in substance, you get substance, and if you put in garbage, you get garbage. The success or failure of a given society can be determined by the following equation: Strong political foundation + right policies + integrity of leadership and followership = successful attainment of social goals and aspirations. It cannot be otherwise. 
The problem with Nigeria today is that on all three counts of strong foundation, right policies and integrity, we are hopelessly deficient. So how can we record success? No one can make an omelette without first breaking eggs, nor can anyone begin the construction of a skyscraper from the penthouse!

Sunday, 17 June 2012


By John Ogunlela:

I have read SPACES FOR CHANGE's latest study on JTF's demolitions of residences in Maiduguri in the name of war on terror as published in the Punch Newspapers. Reading it is an incomplete experience in context of our political and security environment if you one fails to read the accompanying anonymous online blog. The reaction of most readers is, as I sadly expected, not just unappreciative, but spiteful and in fact, often violent.

It strongly suggests that Nigerians are thinking more in terms of vengeance, not solutions. People are thinking in terms of exterminations and genocide, unfortunately. Any student of strategy knows that in irregular warfare, the most important factor for success is winning the friendship of the local population among whom you prosecute a bloodly, surgical military operation against embedded guerillas. This is hard for organized armies operating without concealment and employing heavy weaponry due to the weight of collateral damage that must be incurred.

But then,  you must still work hard to limit those destructions or you risk beating local public sympathy to the enemy's side. With acquisition of sympathy comes an ease of recruitment by, and the flocking of volunteers to the terrorist's cause. I have complained mildly about these tactics sometime back but it was unappreciated. The military can not afford to loose the politics of the war and win its genocide but one fears this might be the state of things there right now. Of course it is a very hard job our troops have there and their courage is outstanding and essential for the nation's continued existence. They get killed and then have to start looking for a pin in a haystack. Why not just pour a vat of acid on the haystack and make the job of getting rid of the pin more straightforward.

Well, for humanity and for truth and also for the very success of their mission, that will not be possible. They'll just have to do a little bit more to protect lives. This side to the debate is new to the society and unfortunately to those directly affected, they are voiceless and distant. But it wont be long before the government is put to notice by international organizations or indicators on the battlefields. So, it is an inescapeable tightrope the government must walk. I hope, of cause, that it wont degenerate into a clampdown on free speech and mismanagement of opinions or findings of this nature!


By Kunle Rotimi

I write this letter to you as friends and colleagues, and as compatriots. I have a feeling that majority of you may not be happy with the negative trends ravaging the northern parts in the last few months.

The sectarian violence spearheaded by the boko haram terrorists and the wanton killings in many parts of northern Nigeria have smeared the image of the region, and in fact, have grossly desecrated the predominant faith of your people.
As youth, you own the future which the activities of these terrorists are capable of destroying. The incessant killings have driven economic growth, sympathy and honour away from that region. This is a hard fact!

The whole world now sees northern Nigeria as a pariah, an unsafe region where foreigners and investors must not visit! Most adherents of Islamic faith have been put in very difficult situation as a result of the boko haram insurgency ravaging the northern Nigeria. The attacks on churches have made things worse, when we consider the fact that innocent lives are being wasted needlessly by these terrorists, thus making the region very bloody! This can bring divine indignation on the region in no time!

Northern youth have a lot to do, by exposing the sponsors and hideouts of the Islamic militants. You can organise vigilante groups in the villages, farmlands, mosques and churches in northern parts! You can fish out these criminals among you!

The suicide bombers have no future; they have no values, that is why they prefer to die violent death and also kill others. In the process, they bring curse and sorrow, fear and panic among the generally peaceful people.

I had lived in some parts of the north and I can attest to the fact that many northerners are very accommodating and kind, harworking and honest. But these new terrorists have bastardized the northern Nigeria values you cherish. They have made the attractive northern Nigeria a hostile, death-prone region! DO YOU LIKE THIS?

You may not know, Nigerians from northern parts are already on surveillance in foreign airports, when they travel out! They suspect them! It is possible that the sponsors and financiers of these terrorists are older people, very close to their graves.

Fellow Nigerians, please prevent the selfish interest of a few disgruntled people, whose intention is to destroy the reputation of your region, by cutting their nose to spite the face! REPORT THEM TO THE SECURITY AGENTS BEFORE THEY HATCH THEIR NEXT PLANS!

Please volunteer today, to expose the miscreants and their sponsors, before the destruction of your future becomes irreversible.

MANY OF THE NEIGHBOURS INCLUDING THE SECRETARY OF LATE SIR AHMADU BELLO WERE CHRISTIANS! Late Sunday Awoniyi, a Yoruba man was Sardauna's Secretary as Premier of Northern Nigeria!


Where then have these terrorists and their bloody sponsors derived their motive to kill Christians and others in the north?
May God bless us all. God bless Nigeria. God bless all Nigerian citizens who love peace!!!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012



SPACES FOR CHANGE’s just-released research study, “Demolishing Foundations of Peace” documents and critically examines the systematic pattern of forced evictions and house demolitions in Nigeria, perpetrated by both city planners and security forces, in the name of “improving national security”. Across many states of Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country, buildings where improvised explosive devises (IEDs) and other dangerous weapons were found are punitively demolished following violent military raids. Mere suspicion of harboring the members of the  dreaded Islamic fundamentalist sect, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, also known as Boko Haram have consistently been used to justify arson and the habitual burning of private residences, properties and businesses of citizens. Areas inhabited by the poor are often labeled as hideouts of Boko Haram, and are on that basis, demolished without recourse to due process, inflaming the population of un-housed and inadequately housed persons in Nigeria. These security-linked demolitions continue to occur in many northern states, especially those areas where the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency. 

Recognizing that tough choices have to be made and resolute action must be sustained in the name of security, SPACES FOR CHANGE notes with great concern, the involvement of the constituted anti-terror security outfits, notably the Joint Task Force and Special Task Force (JTF/STF) in widespread human rights derogations in the volatile states. The JTF and STF have executed, and continue to execute extremely violent demolitions and forced evictions in the name of countering terror attacks. In unguarded exercise of power and discretion, armed security forces have attacked, burnt and demolished private residences in contravention of state, national and international due process provisions.  Families who lose their homes to punitive demolitions are not given the right to rebuild their homes even after an error of the demolishing act has been established. 

Generally speaking, security officials perceive human rights as obstacles to effective intelligence, police and military action, resulting in the current procedures to fight terrorism in a “war” mentality.  “Persons who allow their surroundings or frontage to be used by the Boko Haram sect to attack people or security agencies would be considered as collaborators, and will be treated as criminals, says the JTF. On point, people whose homes or fences have been used (with or without their knowledge) to launch terrorist attacks have been viciously killed, and their homes demolished.  Gripped by the fear of being unfoundedly labeled off as militants or collaborators of the Boko Haram sect, hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and businesses, a situation which has further pushed the majority of the city’s impoverished populations deeper into poverty.  The massive exodus from the north has destroyed businesses, deterred future investments, and frustrated important gains made in the realization of the rights to life, work, housing and food in particular. The forced movements and relocations have devastated communities and disintegrated key social ties and networks. 

SPACES FOR CHANGE’s study found that these demolitions are often hinged on the erroneous belief that the demolished houses either belong to the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, or to individuals and communities supportive of the attacks, whether by planning it, or providing some sort of assistance to the terrorists. Punitive house demolitions have curiously, and in a baseless manner, justified attacks on women, children and the youth across the volatile states. Nearly all reported incidents of anti-insurgency-based house demolitions are accompanied by the unlawful arrests and detention of these categories of people, gravitating towards a veiled policy of substituting fleeing crime suspects with their wives, their sons, and members of their family.

At present, North East Nigeria is the most dangerous place in the world to be a youth, especially a male teen.  From Borno, to Kano, Jos, and Bauchi, young people have been disproportionately targeted with violence. Slum neighbourhoods and other areas with very high concentration of youth populations are often criminalized, and on that basis, raided repeatedly under the cover of manhunt exercises for Boko Haram members. Frequent house-to-house searches conducted without warrants, often serve as preludes to demolition exercises, followed by indiscriminate arrests or shootings of young people.

Our study found no evidence showing that house demolitions effectively deter terrorist groups. Instead, evidence shows that the counter-terror demolitions increase local population’s support for terrorist groups, while fuelling hatred and animosity towards security forces.  SPACES FOR CHANGE’s regular feedback from, and interactions with local residents in the volatile states reveal that the greater the force employed by the JTF in the areas designated as military targets, the greater the sympathy affected communities have for the Boko Haram sect, to the extent that majority of locals are hesitant, or unwilling, to provide information to security operatives about the hideouts and activities of the sect members.

“For every home demolished, the foundations of peace are further threatened”, says Victoria Ohaeri, executive director of SPACES FOR CHANGE who led the research team and compiled the report. Continuing, she said that, “punitive house demolitions frustrate gains made towards closing Nigeria’s housing deficit currently towering at about 16 million housing units. It clogs the wheel of progress in multi-sectoral efforts aimed at improving the housing stock in a sustainable fashion…Furthermore, such demolitions constitute major violations of the right to adequate housing enshrined in several standard-setting human rights instruments voluntarily ratified by the Nigerian government.
SPACES FOR CHANGE strongly condemn the rapidly increasing number of internally displaced persons which currently towers above 200,000 persons, who have been forced to flee their homes as a direct result of the violent activities of both the terror organizations, and counter-terror security outfits. 

As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has so clearly stated, “the very object and purpose of anti-terrorist initiatives in a democratic society is to protect democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law, not to undermine them”. Accordingly, we urge the Nigerian government to end the violence, particularly by halting the ongoing demolition and violent raids on homes, Islamic schools, communities and the accompanying destruction of lives and properties. We are also demanding an independent investigation into the allegations of excessive use of force and extra-judicial killings by members of the Joint Task Force and Special Task Force and bring those who are alleged to have perpetrated crimes to justice.  We further demand for the establishment of complaint mechanisms and grievance procedures that allows the evicted, the injured, or aggrieved persons affected by counter-terrorism operations to express themselves freely and demand redress, without fear of reprisals or arrests. 

Importantly, we urge the Nigerian government and the various state governments to reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to better prepare youth for second chances. While acknowledging the bravery and commitment of the Nigerian security forces toward containing the mounting insecurity and fundamentalism witnessed in the northern part of the country, concrete steps must be taken to integrate respect for human rights into their engagement strategies, peacekeeping and peace-building efforts.

To download a free version of the full report, please click here: DEMOLISHING FOUNDATIONS OF PEACE. JUNE 2012. SPACES.FOR.CHANGE

Friday, 8 June 2012


On Friday, June 8, 2012, SPACES FOR CHANGE visited the site of the DANA Airlines plane crash to commiserate with the survivors and displaced families; to provide free legal counseling and advisory support;  document the impact of the crash on their lives and livelihoods and work together with them to develop a legal strategy for demanding compensation and resettlement. 

The DANA Airlines aircraft crashed into a block of six flats, 2 rooms boys quarters, and a printing press on June 3, 2012. Survivors comprised mainly of the residents of the apartments crushed by the weight of the aircraft and the ensuing explosion. Lagos State government officials were seen demolishing the remains of the building and possibly, looking  for either more survivors, or bodies under the rubble. 

 SPACES FOR CHANGE had extensive discussions with survivors and provided them free on-the-spot legal counseling and advisory services. They learned about their rights as displaced persons, especially the rights to receive compensation and resettlement, and the national and international legal regimes that guarantee those rights. We also educated them on the specific obligations of both the government and the DANA Airline towards them, including the obligations to provide them with full information regarding the crash investigations and insurance policies; opportunities for participation in the design and implementation of the benefit schemes; and the right to propose alternatives to any of the arrangements made for them.

SPACES FOR CHANGE's executive director, Victoria Ohaeri also met with management of DANA Airlines, the Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) and officials of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA). In particular, S4C met with the following: 

1. Mr. A Anand (Indian Expatriate) Head of Admin

2. Mr. Amos Olajide - Head of Department, Ground Operations

3. Mr. Ogboru - Director 

4. Capt. Don Chukwura - Head of Department, Safety

5. Mr. Jude Omeogu - Legal Officer

6. Mr. Bolaji Okusaga -  Communications Consultant to DANA Airlines

7. Dr. Oluwafemi Damilola Oke Osonyinlolu - GM, CEO, LASEMA

8. NEMA officials.


DANA Airline's Legal Adviser explained that the airline's flight insurance scheme covers both air and ground losses, meaning that the compensation benefits will extend to families displaced by the crash. An unnamed British-owned insurance company has begun preliminary investigations and assessment of the on-ground damage. So far, the crash affected six families, and un-ascertained number of persons living in the boys quarters and the printing press. "An arrangement has been made with a local landlord to provide temporary accommodation for the displaced until resettlement plans are finalized", he said.

"Our immediate interest is to ensure their comfort while we work out the details of the compensation scheme. Calculating the compensation benefits for ground losses requires technical expertise provided by forensic experts, property valuers, realtors, and assesors of domestic goods and services. SPACES FOR CHANGE demanded to know the exact length of time the investigation and pre-assessment undertakings would take; and requested them to make available the insurance policies and compensation working documents so that it may independently verify that the rights of the displaced persons are not compromised. S4C also requested them to publicize the reports of the crash investigations, including furnishing the survivors with findings. 

The director and communication consultant pledged the company's commitment to transparency in all phases of the compensation and resettlement plans. A further meeting to discuss these concerns in greater detail, was proposed.  


Displaced residents claimed that the Lagos State government forcefully moved them to a relief camp in Ayobo area of Lagos on the day of the incident. Most of them left the camp the following day on the grounds that the relief camp was too distant from their businesses, children's schools, relatives and community support networks. They also complained about the poor quality of the meals served at the camp. 

Ostensibly irked by the refusal of the survivors to stay in the camp, the LASEMA boss told SPACES FOR CHANGE that an acceptance of the temporary housing at the relief camp is a condition for benefiting from the Lagos State government's housing support and other forms of assistance. When asked to clarify the plans in place to permanently resettle the victims, he explained that "persons who refuse to stay at the camp may be excluded in the resettlement discussions and as such, may not benefit from the planned housing support. Regarding the school children's education, the State Ministry of Education will relocate all school children to new schools near the relief camp since schools across the state use the same curriculum". S4C's appeals to him to consider the community concerns were not accepted. 

Faces of survivors displaced by the plane crash incident.
Presently, all the survivors - except three small children orphaned by the crash - are staying at the home of a kind-hearted neighbour, Mr. Chike Okwuosa. He presently coordinates relief efforts, and supports their feeding.  He vehemently denied claims by Dana Airlines' Legal Officer suggesting that the airline paid or liaised with him to provide temporary accommodation to victims."The displaced families are my neighbours. I am doing this out of my own free will", he told SPACES FOR CHANGE.


Relief materials donated by DANA Airlines yesterday
While it is true that some organizations had donated relief materials, survivors were full of complaints about the uncoordinated and chaotic relief distribution methods. Consequently, the actual victims did not benefit. While they eagerly look forward to receiving some relief assistance from the Lagos State government, DANA Airlines donated beddings, food and household supplies to them today, days after the crash.

All the survivors lost all their personal properties to the crash. "I was taking my bath when i heard a loud explosion. I quickly raced out the bathroom without any clothes on. I lost everything", Adebayo Bidemi told SPACES FOR CHANGE. Other residents told similar tales of grief and misery.


According to NEMA and LASEMA officials, emergency assistance and rescue efforts failed for the following reasons:

1. Bad roads: The road leading to the community is so bad that it took emergency officials several minutes and hours before they could access the crash site

2. Residents' low-level of awareness regarding emergency response procedures: Most residents were totally ignorant of the self-help or localized methods of rescue operations. Majority of them were also too afraid of an impending explosion, and dared not go near the aircraft despite noticing that the passengers were in clear danger. Many residents recounted that they watched the passengers as they hit the aircraft's windows and screamed for help. 

3. All the access points into the building were barricaded with heavy metal protectors and burglary proofs. NEMA officials recalled seeing crying mothers and babies on the first floor. By the time they broke the walls, metal protectors and gained access to the apartments, the occupants had already died of suffocation. 

4. Late arrival of the choppers: The emergency crew requested for reinforcement when they realized the difficulty in accessing the crash site by road. By the time the choppers arrived, the plane had exploded, making rescue operations even more difficult. An official who would not want to be named stated that LASEMA had no choppers, and had banked on the early arrival of NEMA's choppers


DANA's management decried the problems of identity arising from the plane crash. Some of the bodies are still unclaimed and it appears their relatives are not aware they were involved in the crash. They found that some of the passengers used other people's tickets, or patronized touts when purchasing their tickets. As such, names other than their own appeared on the manifest. Identification has been made easier by the information contained on the identity cards of the victims. Checks on their luggage revealed useful data that is currently assisting their investigations and assessments of the compensation claims. DNA experts has been invited to conduct further enquiries on the bodies to establish the identity of deceased persons.

 SPACES FOR CHANGE remains committed to working with the crash survivors to get adequate adequate compensation and resettlement, and to vigorously monitor the airline's handling and payment of the victims' benefits.

DANA Airway's management addressing the crash survivors

Bidemi, and another resident narrate their ordeal, and difficult engagement with the Lagos State Government
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