by Fakhrriyya Hashim

The 2019 elections marked the most crucial event in Nigeria as the incumbent President Buhari returned for a second term. Contrary to the 2015 elections, which is noted for being the freest and fairest elections since the advent of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic as a democracy, the 2019 elections were marred in violence and voter suppression. These were particularly reported in states like Rivers, Lagos and Kano where fatalities were recorded, and hoodlums chased away voters because election rigging has become harder due to the integration of technology in the electoral process. Most election disputes have been settled in court by the election tribunal granting most incumbents victory.

The world clamoured around Nigeria in support of calls to end sexual violence against women and children. It was ignited with the #ArewaMeToo campaign in Northern Nigeria, then spiked by the FCT police raids on women and detention and peaked to outrage at the COZA religious scandal with its chief pastor being called out as a sexual predator. Major stakeholders and activists are striving to get punitive laws against rape implemented across all states, and the sexual offenders’ registry was officially launched by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and will be managed by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking Persons.

There were consistent clashes with Shiite protesters and the police, resulting in the death of Shiite and the banning of protests in the FCT for a period. Insecurity across Northern Nigeria spiked with an increased in kidnapping cases from the outskirts of major Northern towns to the inner cities.

The year is ending on a frightening note as the National Assembly attempts to stifle free speech by proposing two regulatory bills including one specifically targeted at users on social media platforms. These have been met with great outrage by thousands of social media users and civil society. As civil society spaces continue to shrink, journalists are been arrested such as the case of Omoyele Sowore, founder of an online news agency Sahara Reporters. The government continues to compound issues with its use of force and impunity to defy court orders using the DSS to carry out its orders. These spells out a dangerous precedent for the freedoms of a democracy.

The rallying cries following the court invasion and whisking away of Sowore by the DSS have overshadowed the end of this year. In 2020, citizens will look to ensure the freedoms that a democracy promises are not taken away by an administration many now deem teetering towards a dictatorship in 2020.