Tabling at the ASFL 7th West Africa Regional Conference

Written by Oluwaseun Ajetunmobi

On Saturday, 11 2021, young minds gathered at the Otunba Subomi Balogun Conference Centre at the University of Ibadan to discussed issues that centre on liberty. The West Africa Regional Conference was hosted by Students For Liberty, Africa- a libertarian organization that promotes the ideas of freedom and human liberty in all forms. The West African Regional Conference, WARC, a yearly conference is credited as one of the largest gathering of libertarians in Africa. WARC 2021, did deliver as it promised. The conference explored critical issues and topics in Africa and mainly in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest democracy. The issues and topics raised at WARC 2021 were media gag in Africa (Nigeria), police brutality and human rights abuses in Africa (Nigeria), civic engagement in Africa (Nigeria), excessive borrowings and debt management in governance, cryptocurrency in Africa, women and human rights in Africa, accountability in governance and Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement, AFCTA.

The media, popular referred to as the fourth arm of government and the people’s voice to the government, is under attack from several governments in Africa. This attack is systemic and targeted against media that do not promote government agenda irrespective of the nature of the agenda. At WARC 2021, panelists of the first panel session discussed media gag in Africa (Nigeria) to determine if it is dictatorship guise in Africa’s fledgling democracy. The gag against media include the ban of social media and the complete shutdown of internet in some countries in Africa. The panelists agreed that the continuous clampdown on media by many African governments is a statement against the people’s basic human rights to be informed, to be heard and to participate in their government. It is a guise for dictatorship in democracy.

Media Gag in Nigeria; Dictatorship in disguise

Police and policing in Africa and around the world have come under serious scrutiny within the last few years. In 2020, these abuses reached a climax when young people in Nigeria protested the several abuses committed by an arm of the Nigerian Police known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. The menace of SARS which include unlawful arrest and torture, extortion, harassment and extrajudicial killings in several instances reached a brim. Although the protest was targeted at overhauling the policing in Nigeria, it quickly exploded in the quest to quell the protests. The aftermath of the protest still hurt and haunt many youths in Nigeria. As explained by Olumayowa Okediran, the speaker, the police have ceased to be the friend of Nigerians. This reality is reflective in almost all the countries of Africa. The speaker called for a total overhaul of the police and policing in Nigeria and in Africa.

While police brutality is widespread in Africa, the events of October 20, 2020 at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria is still in the memory of many young people in Nigeria. At about 6:50 pm, members of the Nigerian Army opened fire on peaceful #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate. Over 10 months since that fateful day, there are no answers to the events that took place in Lagos. The speaker, Taiwo Adebulu, explained that investigating the truth and telling the untold stories in Nigeria and Africa can be tasking. Just like there is no one taking responsibility for the events at Lekki Tollgate, and in fact, more questions are asked each day in attempt to tell the story, truth has become mirage in most part of African stories. If truth will ever emanate or the story will ever be told is uncertain but it was certain that there was shooting by the Nigerian Army and peaceful protesters were on the ground at the time. The speaker concluded that more revelations will surface after the administration leaves government.

Nigeria signed the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill few years ago to allow more youth to participate in government. Since this period, there has been little changes in youth engagement and citizen participation in governance. The second panel session discussed the essential things young people need to interact with the polity and get involved in decision-making and drive towards better governance. Abiola Adigun, one of the panelists, highlighted that active unionism must be encourage from institutions of learning without any clampdown by management. This will help young people to prepare for governance beyond institutions of learning. Abideen Olasupo, another panelist submitted that young people must be willing to take governance as it will not come a platter of gold. Olarenwaju Arilomo, agreed that youth must do more and participate in governance.

Excessive borrowing and debt servicing have clouded the finances of many African countries. Many African countries are indebted and there are no indications that the debts could be repaid anytime soon. Vahyala Kwaga, provided insights into the dangers of deficit spending and the effects of excessive borrowing for state governments in Nigeria. The activities of state governments especially excessive borrowings have contributed to the financial imbalances and economic hardship in the country. Vahyala concluded that states government should not borrow beyond its IGR to be right on financial management.

Fifty countries have signed the widely published African Free Continental Trade Agreement and 38 ratified it. The agreement is designed to translate to wealth creation, growth, sustainable development in Africa. However, how can AFCTA translates to wealth when intra-trading is bizarre in the continent. Linda Kavuka, exposed the ills of African countries especially on closed border that continue to affect the AFCTA and would hinder African prosperity.

The fifth panel session reinforced the protocol of the recognition and protection of the rights of everyone including women with respect to access to justice and political participation. The panelists submitted that there should be culture that is devoid of segregation and an assurance that the advocacy of women is not an unhealthy one or a war against other gender in the society.

The last speaker, Wale Ajetunmobi, discussed accountability in governance. He highlighted the tools that can promote accountability in governance and how political officers can live the truth the people want. He explained that the people, as well as the government, media, CSOs and every organisation must take part in accountability and governance.

Souvenirs were handed to those who signify to volunteer and work with team by visiting our table to show their interest in the work we do.