Civil society leaders in Nigeria said they are extremely concerned about the way President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic has been presiding over the harassment and detention of civil society leaders in the country.
Over the past three years, civil society activists in Niger have come under siege from state actors in a crackdown that has led to a series of convictions, arrests and detentions affecting civil society leaders.
The context has been the rising poverty in the country, the rise of protests by civil society seeking to protect the people and the increasingly authoritarian response of the state and its security agencies. The latest wave of arrests followed the demonstration of thousands of Nigeriens against the austerity measures imbedded in the 2018 budget.
It would also be recalled that on 25th March 2018, security agents raided offices of major civil society organisations in Niger, attacked and arrested 23 of their leaders.
Those arrested are:
1) Moussa Tchangari
2) Me Lirwana Abdourahamane
3) Nouhou Mahamadou Arzika
4) Ali Idrissa
5) Moctar Oumarou
6) Halarou Abdou
7) Ousseini Maiga
8) Moumoudou Seyni
9) Moustapha Ibrahim
10) Abdoul Aziz Issaka
11) Ibrahim Malam Nameiwa
12) Bachir Kadri
13) Abdoul Kader Hamza
14) Alassane Souleymane
15) Idrissa Adamou
16) Aminou Tayabou
17) Abdoulaye Mamadou Koné
18) Issoufou Maiwanzam
19) Hamaye Abdou
20) Chapiou Mahamadou
21) Mohamed Aminou Nassirou Hassane
22) Soumaila Hassane
23) Abdouljamal Alassane
They were charged for participation in an illegal demonstration and were sent to jail without trial. At the same time, the radio and television station – Radio et Télévision Labarai (RTL) was closed.
In a joint statement by some CSO leaders in Nigeria, the group called for the immediate release of the comrades unlawfully detained in prisons in Niger.
It demanded for a stop at the systematic harassment and serial arrest of civil society organisations and leaders in the country.
“We appeal for a review of the 2018 budget, which has significantly increased the austerity measures in Niger and increased the suffering and misery of the masses in Niger;
” We draw attention to the significant decline of democratic culture in Niger due to the rise of authoritarianism and attack on the rule of law by President Mahamadou Issoufou;
“We call on the good people of Niger to continue with determination their struggle for the defense of democratic and civil rights in their country;
“We demand that President Muhammadu Buhari in the spirit of good neighborliness and the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance intervene with his counterpart in Niger to secure the release of civil society leaders and the edification of democracy and the rule of law,” the statement said.
Some of the group’s leader who signed the statement included Jibrin Ibrahim, Centre for Democracy and Development; John Odah, Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa; Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, CISLAC; Ezenwa Nwagwu, Say No Campaign;, Olanrewaju Suraju, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), among others.