Ex: Jonathan Power
Subject: The world’s freedom- up or down?
Date: February 4th 2013.
The Cold War ended and the good times began- the big powers stopped using their veto in the UN Security Council, the number of wars fell dramatically, human rights improved all over the world including in Russia and the number of democracies increased substantially.
Where have all the flowers gone? The veto has returned. The number of civil wars has started to rise again. The number of democracies has begun to decrease. Perhaps better human rights practices are still holding their ground- in China they are improving slowly, including a more open press and more freedom for academics in the universities, but in Russia after some opening up under the presidency of Dimitri Medvedev freedoms are now retreating under Vladimir Putin. The Arab Spring continues its uncertain course with Egypt awash with uncertainty. Only in Tunisia does freedom seem secure.
Freedom House has a long history of measuring progress on some of the key human rights indicators- democracy, freedom of the press and the courts. It has produced some interesting results in its new report.
Still, all is not right with Freedom House’s report. The organization does have flaws. One man’s judgement is another man’s poison, although that is to put it too strongly.
When I look at its report on Nigeria, a country I have visited a dozen times over 30 years, I think back on my visits and recall that every time I go I feel astonished by its progress both political and economic. It’s only 14 years ago that it was ruled by a brutal dictatorship. Under its first elected government freedom of the press and assembly were instantly granted. A strong attack was made on its embedded corruption. The courts were freed to do their job and steadily improved their quality.
The first election was flawed but since then there have been three general elections and each time they have become fairer. The legal system has improved and the government has been challenged in the courts including over the election results when the court in one knife-edged judgment decided there had been a good deal of fraud in the election but that the cheating wouldn’t have altered the results. Newspapers have become more daring in their criticisms.
The deeply embedded culture of corruption continues unabated. Prosecutions on Nigerian soil have only netted one imprisonment. But Freedom House don’t mention the successful conviction of a big time politician in a UK court, with the evidence supplied by Nigeria. Moreover, the sense of impunity has diminished. The cabinets of the three governments have been almost corruption-free.
The police have been reformed and its boss was sacked for corruption by Obasanjo. However, they still retain their propensity for violence, and road blocks to halt drivers until they pay a bribe are common in some parts of the country.
The army is much improved. I have watched it at work in Liberia after the bloody dictator, Charles Taylor, was deposed. It behaved impeccably.
At home its second tier troops have exhibited brutality, as have the police, when dealing with tribal flare ups and their tracking down of Boko Haram, the extremist Muslim guerrillas in the north.
Nevertheless, I feel positive: if one looks at the world’s population in total, rather than measuring states, my guess is that freedom is still improving.
Copyright: Jonathan Power.
As much as i agree with some of Mr Power's perception on the current state of affairs in Nigeria, i however do not agree entirely with his views on the Nigerian justice system. The Nigerian justice system may have ostensibly witnessed some improvements but the facts and realities on ground tell otherwise. What is obtainable in Nigerian courts today can best be described as a travesty of justice, a mockery.
Yes, Nigeria may have been instrumental to the successful conviction of a one-time governor of a State in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, by a British court, but are you aware that prior to the governor's conviction in a British court, that he had earlier been acquitted and discharged of the same offence by a Nigerian court?
Recently also, a top government official in Nigeria was charged with embezzling almost 25 billion Naria meant for the payment of pensions. He admitted to embezzling 2 billion out of the 25 billion Naira he was originally charged with. The court in its "wisdom and justice", sentenced him to 2 years imprisonment, with an option of 750, 000 Naira fine.
Moving on to the case involving Henry Okah, the alleged mastermind of the 2010, October 1 bombing in Abuja, the Federal capital territory; it actually took Henry Okah's conviction in a South African court to make Nigeria now take the initiative and then convict and sentence Okah's brother to more than 30 years imprisonment.
What we must understand is that one of the main reasons for the high rate of violent crimes in Nigeria today is because most people have lost faith in the justice system and as such have resorted to self help.
thanks for the thoughts!