Protests erupted in Nigeria on 7th October 2020, calling for the abolishment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). While there is limited data on the alleged crimes of this police unit, accounts from human rights watch dogs and several video evidences which have surfaced online prove the accusations to be valid. The conduct of security operatives during protests as well as the deployment of a military guards unit to quell protests has brought to mind a question about the state of civil liberties in Nigeria and the future of its democracy.
Nigeria became a democracy in 1999 and the gains from those years have began to erupt the last 5 years according to current data.
So, is Nigeria still a Democracy?
The Economist Intelligence unit in its Democracy Index, an annual watch of democracies globally, classified Nigeria as a “Hybrid Regime” just next to “Authoritarian” as of 2019. Nigerian earned this classification due to the poor state of its election processes and outcomes, intensification of terrorist activity, the corruption index, judiciary performance, and shrinking press freedom. The EIU computed the index based on five components of democracy; electoral process & pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties all of which Nigeria has below average rankings, except for electoral processes & pluralism components. However, Nigeria’s score only started declining in 2015. It previously increased 3.76 in 2014 to 4.62 in 2015.
What is the Outlook for 2020?
The response of the Nigerian Government to the #EndSARS protest will contribute significantly to determining Nigeria’s democratic standing globally in the short term. Some issues to Consider will include the deployment of fully kitted military to quell protesters leaving several injured, the killing of at least 10 protesters by men of the Nigerian Police Force. Based on the above premise, and the depletion of civil liberties in Nigeria, the country could slip into the spot of “Authoritarian Regime” joining other 20 African countries including Rwanda and Ethiopia.