*As Falana says nation’s democracy under threat
By OUR REPORTER, Lagos
There was a palpable fear in the polity as human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), sent out caution to Nigerian government and politicians against provoking citizens to mutiny.
Falana issued the warning while speaking at the National Symposium themed: “Nigeria Economy and the Crisis of Survival: Robbing the Poor to Pay the Rich”, organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and held in Abuja, on Thursday August 31, 2023.
Falana lamented that the poor are asked to tighten their belts and suffer the burden of the economic issues in the nation, while public officials keep spending lavishly.
He warned that as long as figures of extravagant spendings by the National Assembly continue to be churned out, Nigerians will be irritated and so will be enemies of democracy.
The legal luminary also attributed the recent trend of military juntas in Africa, particularly the most recent one that occurred in Gabon, to a number of factors, including the ruthless exploitation of African countries’ mineral resources by the west, third term syndrome, political manipulation of the constitution, and the establishment of foreign military bases in African nations.
According to him, “They must be careful not to provoke Nigerians to mutiny. Some of the things going in the National Assembly shows that we are in trouble. 70 billion Naira for palliatives for 469 people and when we said no they claimed it was for the facelift of the National Assembly.
“Three years ago, 37 billion Naira was earmarked for the facelift of the National Assembly. That contract has not been fully executed and there is no renewal of the contract so you cannot talk about 70 billion Naira for facelift.
“Secondly, 40 billion Naira to buy exotic cars now for the leadership of the National Assembly is not going to be allowed.
“The latest provocative news from the National Assembly is that 54 billion Naira has been earmarked for constituency projects for 360 members of the House of Representatives. It has come to 150 million per person. Under this austere condition of the country.
“So when these figures are oozing out of the National Assembly Nigerians are being provoked and enemies of democracy are being provoked.
“The military has been honest to say that they are under pressure to dismantle this rickety political system but someone told them to go and deny it and they came out and denied it. But we can read between the lines. We can’t gather here to talk about democracy that is under threat.
“The immediate causes of coups in Africa today are third term syndromes, manipulation of constitution, military bases.
“Today, America has 29 military bases in Africa. France has 15. Soldiers are protesting because numbers of these foreign bases are receiving salaries as if they are in their countries. So the soldiers are protesting the preferential treatment between them and these foreign troops , so we must look at that.
“The remote causes are the ruthless exploitation of the mineral resources of our country by western countries. The people are getting poorer.
“The poor are asked to tighten their belts even when they are dying. We maybe there discussing democracy, democracy is under threat in Africa,” he said.