Coalition warns against hiding under security to shrink civic space
Seeks govt, civil society collaboration to address knotty areas
Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS) has warned against the rising misuse of security infrastructure to curtail civic freedom in Nigeria.
In the name of curbing insecurity, law enforcement powers have been expanded, a litany of security laws introduced, meanings of existing laws broadened to impute serious crimes with heavier penalties while physical and digital surveillance have become routinised, the group noted while presenting its latest research report via Zoom on Monday.
The report, the last of the three-part joint action research, “Nigeria: Shrinking Civic Space in the Name of Security,” examines the popular use of security architecture to limit civil society and disenable the environment for active civic participation in the country.
According to one of the leaders of the coalition, Mrs. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri of Spaces for Change (S4C), the document, however, seeks answers to the question: how can states (like Nigeria) facing multiple security challenges protect civic freedoms while combating violent security threats such as terrorism and violent extremism?
“Nigeria’s security threats include terrorism and violent extremism, armed banditry, kidnapping, militancy and separatist agitations, pastoralists-farmers’ conflicts, transnational organised crime, piracy and sea robbery, porous borders, cybercrimes and technology challenges,” she noted.
In a statement made available to The Guardian, yesterday, AGFCS also called for collaborative efforts from the government, international community, private sector, media and civil society to strike the much-needed balance between threats to national security (like terrorism and money laundering) and the freedom of the civic space in the country.
AGFCS made other recommendations, which it believes will serve to greatly hamper the misuse of security infrastructure to retrench civil liberties. They include categorical declarations from the courts to define the limits of the state’s ability to invoke Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution, and constructive engagements between civil society and state actors to improve public understanding of Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution and its contribution to national development.