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Nigerians turn to radio shows to seek justice

Nigerians turn to radio shows to seek justice

Nigeria

“Good morning ordinary citizens!” yells Ahmed Isah, the host of Nigeria’s Brekete Family radio programme.

“Olo-lolo!” shouts his audience of more than 100 people, crammed into pews in the studio early one morning in the capital of Abuja.

The call and response – which means ‘One who has nobody has God, and one who has God has everything’, according to Isah – is a mantra for Brekete Family’s audience.

That as individuals, as citizens, we have the power, we have the role, we have the responsibility to ensure that the right thing is done.

They hope that the programme will help them achieve something Nigeria’s legal institutions have failed to deliver – justice.

The popularity of Brekete Family, which promises to help the downtrodden redress alleged wrongs, reflects how low public trust in Nigeria’s legal system – beset by corruption, bureaucracy and mismanagement – has sunk.

“We have bad governance, bad leadership. The laws are there, but the enforcement is nothing, the implementation is zero. It is as good as not being there. The laws only favour the rich and the mighty in the country. The ordinary Nigerians are not being protected by law. You don’t even have a right if you are, if you don’t belong to the upper class,” Isah, who styles himself ‘Ordinary President’, told Reuters.

Nigeria’s justice ministry did not respond to repeated request for comment.

Six times a week, over 100 petitioners gather outside the gates of Human Rights Radio in the early morning, vying for a chance to voice their grievances on air and receive Brekete Family’s help.

They include the elderly and the young, and many come clutching documents detailing their woes.

Some come to settle family disputes, others allege wrongful dismissal from jobs or government agencies refusing to release pensions.

Being hospitalised by security officers, police extortion and alleged threats of assassination from government officials are among the other grievances.

Reuters was unable to verify these statements, nor how effective Brekete Family’s results were.

“The case has been with the police, so we go there they will say come tomorrow, come tomorrow. I have been going there for three months now and the case has been also transferred to the SARS (SPECIAL ANTI-ROBBERY SQUAD) and they are demanding over 300,000 Naira (830 USD) from us and which we don’t have. So that is why we came here for assistance,” said Gloria Sheneni, a marketer for an investment firm, who sought police help after the company’s boss disappeared, leaving customers owed money, furious at her and her colleagues.

“One of the very important, good thing that this radio station is doing. Two things; one for the people to know that they have the power to complain, but also to know that they have the power to bring about change. That as individuals, as citizens, we have the power, we have the role, we have the responsibility to ensure that the right thing is done,” said Chidi Onumah, another regular listener.

Isah said the programme is dealing with almost 200 court cases and can resolve them much more quickly than Nigeria’s courts, notorious for their delays and flurries of injunctions and counter-injunctions.

Reuters was unable to verify these statements, nor how effective Brekete Family’s results were.

“Our constitution is not clear, our laws are not clear to Nigerians. An average American child knows his or her fundamental human rights, but not in Nigeria. The awareness is not there,” Isah added.

Although Isah could not say how many listeners the programme had, in reaching its audience, the show crosses many of Nigeria’s widest divides – religion, ethnicity and region – and unifies the downtrodden with a greater aim.

Reuters

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