The Civic Space Watch Cluster (The Cluster) is a network of select Civil Society Organisations in Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States respectively, working with other critical stakeholders, individuals and groups to safeguard the civic space; a free, safe and open space to participate in their government by exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The Cluster has observed with shock the news of dynamite blast and sporadic shooting at ATLANTIC T.V and WISH F.M. which occurred between the hours of 8-9p.m on the 21ST Day of February 2023. This attack on the media is tantamount to an attack on the fundamental right of EXPRESSION as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria and other regional, continental and international protocols signed by Nigeria.
The Cluster is also not unaware of the incidence of Executive Order 21 and 22, on the civic space in Rivers State- which has significantly limited the ability of individuals and groups to politically associate, assembly and express their aspirations. This in our responsible opinion has adversely restricted the civic space for political participation, thereby creating an incentive for the several violent attacks on active participants in the 2023 elections in Rivers State and the CIVIC SPACE.
At our Quarterly Forum, we consulted with state and non- state actors working relentlessly to defend human rights and safeguard the civic space in Rivers State and are constrained to issue this all important communication to the public in the interest of public good. Against this backdrop, it is the position of The Cluster and members of the civil society community that the violence is inimical to a free, fair, credible and secure 2023 election in Rivers State and is capable of causing social, economic and political upheaval, if not nipped in the bud as soon as possible.
The Cluster is worried that the response of those saddled with the statutory responsibility of protecting lives and properties in Rivers State is deemed inadequate by the public and could lead to people resorting to self-help- which will be grossly damaging to the polity.
Pertinently, we call on the political class and young people to act responsibly in order not to destabilize the social fabrics of Rivers State and as such, The Cluster is demanding from the Commissioner of Police and the Director of the State Security Service (DSS) in Rivers State to put in place proactive measures to prevent this emerging threat to the civic space and speedily investigate these violent activities in order to protect individuals and groups to freely exercise their fundamental rights to associate, assembly and express their thoughts, including that of DISSENT.
We also pledge to collaborate with the security agencies to bringing an end to this menace to society, if given the opportunity. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of the security agencies to keep us safe and ensure that no one is persecuted, intimidated, threatened or even killed because of their political, religious or social persuasions.
Thank you and God Bless Nigeria.
Community Conciliation and Development Initiative (CCADI – RIVERS STATE)
The Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL – RIVERS STATE)
Emmanuel N. Okpala & Co (RIVERS STATE)
The Family Welfare Foundation (BAYELSA STATE)
Mac – Jim Foundation (BAYELSA STATE)
The COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peace building (AKWA IBOM STATE)
Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (AKWA IBOM STATE)