By Halima Yahaya
A former chairman of the board of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, has inaugurated a civic group to challenge the many cases of human rights abuse on country.
Speaking at the inauguration of the group known as Civic Coalition for Democracy on Tuesday in Abuja, Mr Odinkalu said the group was created following the need to defend Nigeria’s democracy from assault and oppression by government officials.
Mr Odinkalu further explained that the event which held at the Unity fountain in Abuja also planned to highlight the need for the government to allow violence-free gatherings and freedom of speech across the country.
“The (CCD) is borne-out of the desire to ensure the preservation of our democracy by highlighting the assaults on the civic space in the country by the President Buhari’s Administration. The ability of citizens to call government at all levels to account and demand the quality of governance they deserve is the hallmark of a democratic society,” Mr Odinkalu said.
Mr Odinkalu added that the country has been thrown down the dark days of arbitrary human rights violations. He cited the killings of the Shiites during peaceful protests by the group across the country, after the December 2015 Zaria massacre. Noting many cases of government’s violation of court orders, he described the situation as unfortunate.
He said although the military was speaking to defend itself, the damning reports about human rights violations by global rights group were largely true.
Attempts by the government, according to him, to prevent the #BringBackOurGirls group and their likes from gathering, will only deepen the woes of the present administration.
“There is a deliberate action by the government to suppress citizens’ voice in the country.
“In the last two years, especially as we approach the 2019 general elections, our country has witnessed increasing attempt to shrink the civic space with considerable success. An example that easily comes to mind is the occupation of the Unity Fountain by the personnel of the Nigerian Police – preventing citizens the use of the space for demanding accountability,” Mr Odinkalu said.
The unity fountain, one of the popular points of civil agitation in Abuja, has for months been guarded by armed security operatives, following police ban on public protests there.