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Nigerians compare Abacha’s military regime to Buhari’s civilian administration

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AS Nigerians commemorate 23 years of the death of former military dictator Sani Abacha, some have compared his despotic regime with the current civilian administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Outraged by the recent suspension of  Twitter in Nigeria, the citizens said Buhari’s action was similar to Abacha’s regime when he stifled freedom of expression.

Nigerians say several human rights infringements under the Abacha military regime are similar to the ones being recorded in the current Buhari’s administration.

A Nigerian identified as Ovie @OvieO tweeted that Abacha’s rule might be better than the administration of Buhari.


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“Abacha might be better than Buhari,” Ovie posted.

Another social media user Onye Nkuzi, who tweets  @cchukudebelu, said Abacha’s administration shut Tell Magazine and Newswatch during his time.

“Abacha used to send soldiers to shut down ‘Tell’ and ‘Newswatch’ operations and seize all the copies of their newsmagazines they could find.

“This is merely the 21st Century equivalent of that behaviour – and they are just getting started,” Onye Nkuzi said.

What happened during Abacha’s regime?

Abacha, a general, ruled Nigeria between 1993  and 1998 after gaining power from the interim transition government of former head of state Ernest Shonekan.

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Abacha’s administration was marred by several human rights abuses, clampdown on the press and opposition, among others.

In an appendix to a letter sent to the then Pope of the Catholic Church on March 13, 1998, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the highlights of Abacha’s regime included arbitrary detention of Nigerians, human rights abuses, killing of opposition leaders and activists.

The letter read that journalists who were critical of the Abacha regime were subjected to harassment and detention by security operatives.

It also stated that the judicial process was being manipulated through the creation of special tribunals to hear cases in favour of the government.

One of those tribunals ordered the execution of a popular human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

Saro-Wiwa and the other activists were executed on November 10, 1995.

Why Nigerians are worried

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Many Nigerians are beginning to express concerns about some of the actions of the current Buhari civilian administration that have shown some elements of Abacha’s regime.

Since the inception of the administration, journalists and the media have been  gagged through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the State Security Service (SSS).  All TV and radio stations have been ordered by the NBC to disconnect from Twitter – an action criticised by many Nigerians.

Nigerians were shocked that Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami threatened to prosecute users of Twitter, even when there is no law upon which this could be achieved.

Those who have criticised the current administration such as Olusegun Obasanjo, Matthew Kukah, among others, have been insulted.

Beyond that, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Samuel Onnoghen was removed in a manner described as unconstitutional.

Also, the Buhari government, on many occasions, flagrantly disobeyed court orders, most especially in cases of persons that were critical of his government. Examples were Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu.

Another example was the continued detention of the Publisher of Sahara Reporters and human rights activist Omoyele Sowore after the court had granted him bail.

Sowore was arrested inside the courtroom against the verdict of the court.

In 2020, a 75-year-old man and others were arrested by the Nigerian police for ‘insulting Buhari’ in a video.

The Buhari administration has also clamped down on peaceful protesters, thereby violating the constitutional rights of Nigerians to protest peacefully.

In cases where Nigerians protested, they were either shot at or violently dispersed by security officials, thereby showing the government’s resistance to peaceful assemblies.

Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for peaceful assemblies to protect their interest. It reads: ‘Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests:

“Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.”

There has also been an onslaught on freedom of expression in Nigeria through the ban of Twitter, where many Nigerians criticise the inadequacies of the government.

Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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