Nigerian human rights lawyer and former chairman of the West Africa Bar Association (WBA), Femi Falana, SAN has called for the release of the ousted president of Niger Republic and others detained along with him by the military junta currently in power in the West African nation.
He also called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to lift the sanctions placed on Niger Republic including the restoration of electricity supply to the country.
Mr Falana made the call on Tuesday while speaking at the maiden edition of the West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 hosted by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and the Spaces for Change (S4C) in partnership with Ford Foundation, and West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS).
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Speaking on the theme: “Civil Society in West Africa: Reimagining the Role of the Third Sector in Protecting Civic Space and Consolidating Democracy for Regional Development,” Falana, noted that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have done marvelous work in helping humanity in parts of Africa.
He charged CSOs to focus on the goal of championing the cause of the masses and promoting sustainable democracy in the continent.
While citing incidents of foreign sponsorship of campaign projects aimed at promoting things that negate African customs, laws, and cultural values such as gay marriage, and homosexuality, the legal luminary also urged CSOs to resist the temptation to do the biddings of their donors which at times undermine democracy.
“The effective civil society attitude, NGOs among, is supposed to be voluntary, non-partisan. However, in practice, many received monetary awards for work that was meant to be voluntary.
“Many NGOs understand democracy only in the interest of their donors. Yet democracy that does not lead to good governance or dividends for the people is of no use. And such a democracy, the populace cannot defend it; when it comes under threat.”
African CSOs, he said, should begin the campaign for government to recognize human rights.
He also called for an end to the prolongation of tenure of office by African leaders, arguing that an inordinate quest to perpetuate themselves in power is part of what has often led to political crises in different countries
“African civil society groups should be focused, identify the campaign against violations of human rights of the people by demanding compliance by ECOWAS on the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Urgent need to end tenure elongation in West Africa following the manipulation of the constitution by elected residents.
“ECOWAS should therefore approve the proposal for two terms for presidents. And since she has opted for dialogue in the military junta in Niger, as proposed to three-year military transition, the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS should be lifted as a matter of urgency and electricity should be restored by Nigeria,” he advised.
Falana also charged ECOWAS to support the struggle to end the exploitation of mineral resources by imperialists.
He also called on ECOWAS to seize the opportunity of the current political crises in West Africa to launch a single currency to be used in the region to be called Eco.
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