Niger: Civil Society activists released after 4 months in prison, but challenges continue

On Tuesday 24 July, fifteen members of civil society were released following their arrest and imprisonment four months ago for protesting against a new Finance Law in Niger. Of these fifteen, Ali Idrissa (Coordinator of PWYP Niger, Board member of Publish What You Pay, and Coordinator of the Niamey-based civil society organisation ROTAB), Moussa Tchangari (Secretary General of Alternative Espaces Citoyens) and Nouhou Arzika (President of Mouvement Pour la Promotion de la Citoyenneté Responsable) were each given a 3 month suspended sentence for “illegal assembly”. They will be released today as they have already served four months in prison since their arrest on the 25th March. The other fourteen activists were released without charge.

While Publish What You Pay welcomes the news that fifteen members will be released today, concerns remain about the state of civic space in Niger and ongoing persecution of members of civil society.

Six more activists – Abdou Salihou Halarou, Moctar Oumarou, Abdoul Djawel, Hamey Abdou Beidou, Hamza Haroun Abdoul Kader, Aminou Dayabou – remain in prison for two more months as they were each sentenced to six months in prison and each given an additional six months suspended sentence.

Four others – Maikoul Zodi, Ibrahim Diori, Karim Tanko, Maiwanzame Issoufou – remain in prison awaiting trial for protesting the 2018 Finance Law of Niger.

Lirwana Abdourahmane, also remains in prison after he was sentenced to 12 months plus 12 months suspended for “contempt of court”.

Publish What You Pay calls on the Government of Niger to expedite the trials or drop the charges against these individuals who remain in prison.

Publish What You Pay Executive Director Elisa Peter said:

“We applaud the Judiciary of Niger for the release of these social justice activists today. Yet PWYP condemns the arrest and intimidation of citizens, social justice activists, lawyers and journalists, some of whom are still in prison for their participation in a peaceful demonstration against the country’s new finance law. They must be released immediately. We also call on the Government of Niger to ensure the protection of fundamental liberties for all citizens, including freedoms of expression & peaceful assembly”

See below a list of statements released on the issue over the course of the four months since the arrests:

PWYP Africa Steering Committee to African Union: For the fight against corruption to be won, threats to civic space must be condemned

Niger: 25 May marks two months since 26 activists and civil society members have been detained

Joint Press Release: Niger – Diplomatic representatives must act for the immediate release of arrested human rights defenders

Open letter for the release of Human Rights Defenders in Niger

Africa Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay strongly condemns arrest of members in Niger

PWYP Africa Steering Committee to African Union: For the fight against corruption to be won, threats to civic space must be condemned

25 March to 25 June 2018: Civil Society leaders in Niger are still imprisoned for having mobilised against a tax law that is deemed unfair and encourages corruption

Arrestation Ali Idrissa

The 31st Summit of the African Union (AU) will start on 25 June 2018 in Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania. The theme of the Summit is the fight against corruption: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”

Publish What You Pay, a global network of civil society organizations working to promote good governance in the extractive industries sector, welcomes the importance given to the fight against corruption by African leaders on the occasion of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

According to OECD figures, one in five cases of transnational corruption occurs in the extractive industries sector (mining, oil and gas). The huge amount of money lost by resource-rich countries could be used to fund basic social services such as education or health, and be reinvested in the development of effective public services to address inequities. Instead, Africa loses more than US$ 50 billion a year due to illicit financial flows, according to the OECD’s report on illicit financial flows.

The fight against corruption that the African Union wants to prioritize can only be won if citizens can get involved and express themselves freely and fully on these issues. The African Union must take a firm stand on the growing and frequent attacks against citizen participation, a key element to promote transparency and accountability, and make this agenda a reality as soon as possible.

Indeed, the 25 June 2018 marks the three months detention of 26 members of the Nigerien civil society for having protested against the Finance Law adopted in November 2017 by the Nigerian Parliament to set the state budget in 2018. Since November 2017, citizens and civil society in Niger have continued to mobilise to express dismay over a law they deem unfair as it may provide a series of tax concessions to high level officials and thus facilite corruption.

Our civil society colleagues in Niger, including several leaders of organizations such as Mr Moussa Tchangari (Alternative espace citoyen); Mr Ali Idrissa (The Organisation for Transparency and Budget Analysis, ROTAB); Mr Nouhou Arzika (Patriotic Movement for Responsible Citizenship, MPCR) and Mr Abdramane Lirwana, a human rights lawyer, as well as other civil society activists, have been charged with “organising and participating in an unauthorised protest”, “complicity in violence, “aggression” and “destruction of property” and imprisoned in various prisons throughout the country. On 15 April, another five activists were arrested and accused of the same charges. We consider these accusations unfair and unfounded.

The African Union Summit is an opportunity for us to raise again our serious concerns about the deterioration of the civic space and the threat to human rights in general in many countries in Africa (Niger being one of the most recent examples) and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association in particular.

Thus, in order to show their commitment to the fight against corruption initiated by the African Union, whose aspiration clearly highlighted for the 2063 Agenda is “an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law”, we appeal to the Heads of State and Government to make concrete commitments to ensure the respect of human rights and freedom of expression and association and to call on their Nigerien counterparts to release civil society actors immediately and without conditions.

Publish What You Pay
Africa Steering Committee
Publish What You Pay Africa Steering Committee

  • Anglophone West Africa: Erisa Danladi, PWYP Nigeria
  • Central Africa: Dupleix Kuenzob, PWYP Cameroon
  • East and Southern Africa: Mutuso Dhliwayo, PWYP Zimbabwe
  • Francophone West Africa: Tiemoko Sangare, PWYP Mali
  • EITI International Board representative: Moses Kulaba
  • EITI International Board representative: Brice Mackosso
  • EITI International Board representative: Faith Nwadishi

—–

Media contact West Africa:

M. Demba SEYDI, Regional Coordinator – Francophone West Africa

Mobile: (+221) 77 344 59 59

Telephone: (+221) 70 866 02 44

Skype: demba.seydi

Email: dseydi@publishwhatyoupay.org

Niger: 25 May marks two months since 26 activists and civil society members have been detained

10 organisations call on authorities in Niger to stop prosecution of activists and civil society members and release those detained

Two months after 26 civil society activists were arrested in the capital, Niamey, at peaceful demonstrations against a new finance law, Oxfam and Amnesty International alongside eight other NGOs are calling on the authorities of Niger to release the detainees and bring an end to the prosecutions civil society.

The civil society activists were detained on March 25 2018 in various prisons in the country for “organising and participating in a prohibited demonstration”, “complicity in violence”, “aggression” and “destruction of property”. The 26 arrested include three leaders of civil society organisations: Moussa Tchangari, Alternative espace citoyen (Alternative citizen spaces); Ali Idrissa, Rotab; and Nouhou Arzika, Mouvement pour la promotion de la citoyenneté responsable (Movement for the Promotion of Responsible Citizenship). Five other protesters including Ibrahim Diori (Alternative espace citoyen /Alternative citizen spaces), Maïkoul Zodi (Tournons la Page,) Abdourahamane Idé Hassane (Jeunesse pour une mentalité nouvelle /Youth for a New Mentality) were later arrested on April 15 and prosecuted for the same charges.

“This situation is of deep concern for international human rights and development organisations who believe that civic space does not pose a threat to the government, but instead allows citizens to engage in a constructive dialogue with the authorities,” said Adama Coulibaly, Oxfam West Africa Regional Director.

“The right of civil society organisations to engage in peaceful activities is protected by international law. These people play a vital role in the protection and realisation of human rights and democracy. They should not be seen as a threat, but rather as actors of dialogue with whom the State should engage.”

The organisations call on the authorities in Niger to immediately release the activists and to drop all prosecutions against them. They ask the authorities to also begin to have constructive dialogue with civil society organisations about their right to protest on any matter of national interest immediately.

“Instead of deploying strategies to attack civil society activists and human rights defenders, the authorities in Niger should recognise their legitimacy by respecting their work, providing them with the necessary space for their activities, and protecting them against threats,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“On no occasion should Niger seek to demonstrate its position in West Africa by reducing the space of civil society. It is high time these detainees all arrested in connection with the 2018 finance law protests were released,” said Melanie Sonhaye Kombate of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network.

——

Signatories:

  1. Oxfam
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Front Line Defenders
  4. Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez
  5. Tournons La Page
  6. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  7. West Africa civil society Institute
  8. Centre for civil and Political rights
  9. CIVICUS
  10. West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network ROADDH/WAHRDN

Urgent: Free our colleague Ali Idrissa, jailed for doing his job

MineArlit1

Our colleague and friend, Ali Idrissa, is in jail. By using spurious charges against him for the third time, the government of Niger pursue their disgraceful harassment of the anti-corruption movement. I urge them to see sense and free Ali and his fellow campaigners immediately.

One of the world’s largest exporters of uranium, Niger has a vital role to play in upholding the transparency of extractive industries. Fresh from its exit from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) last year (the world’s top anti-corruption programme for the mining, oil and gas sectors), Ali’s arrest marks a new phase. The government is no longer backsliding, it is in free-fall.

Ali coordinates the national chapter of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) in Niger and sits on the PWYP Board. I was last with him in Brussels in October last year, at our Board meeting. A few days later, Niger was suspended by the EITI over its failure to ensure the vital civic space – a free press, unrestricted civil society – that countries need for transparency to thrive; to protect a trillion dollar sector from international corruption.

At the time, Ali worried things would only worsen. He was clear-eyed and correct, as usual. Following its suspension from the EITI, the government dramatically withdrew from the initiative altogether. And today Ali sits in a prison cell, where the government have now held him for 47 days.

Authorities claim Ali, together with 26 others, are guilty of organising an unlawful gathering to protest a new finance law – a law which experts and civil society say is regressive and opaque. The fact the government have used stalling tactics against the right to protest; that Ali was in his office, as usual, when police seized him; that they have denied him bail, and set no date for his trial; that his radio station was shut down (a decision quickly overturned by a judge) – all point to one clear conclusion: this is judicial harassment.

While this is shocking, it is barely surprising. The government have used this tactic against Ali twice before, in 2014 and 2017. Nigeriens and international actors, including the EITI, have called on the country’s leaders to show better leadership time and time again.

Moreover, the case of Ali and his fellow campaigners shows a broader, worrying pattern of governments spurning the norms and principles they claim to stand for.

As it happens, this week marks the annual civil society gathering of another inter-government transparency body: the “OpenGov Week” of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Fittingly, its themes this year include ‘fighting corruption’ and ‘protecting civic space’. Meanwhile, crises from Niger and beyond vividly illustrate just how vital these goals are.

A curious assortment of countries – Azerbaijan (who also jailed activists and journalists, and shut down media outlets), Niger, and the current United States administration – exited the EITI last year after their commitment was questioned.

In Mexico, civil society groups collectively walked out of the OGP process last year, arguing their government was not honouring their pledges.

Also last year, in September, the government of Tanzania withdrew from the OGP, all while creating an extremely difficult climate for civil society.

In the Philippines, the government publishes a “terrorist list” that includes a number of indigenous activists and leaders. These leaders are known to be involved in many important anti-mining campaigns. The Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, has also warned journalists that they “are not exempted from assassination.”

This threat has an ominous ring. Freedom of the press – and safety of journalists – is in acute crisis as civic space continues to erode. The heroic Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was murdered in a targeted car bombing last year after having uncovered a vast network of corruption involving Maltese and Azerbaijani officials. Reporters without Borders report a rise in hostility against the press and innumerable pressuring tactics.

And last month, back in Niger, TV journalist Baba Alpha was jailed, wrenched away from his family, stripped of his citizenship and forcibly exiled to Mali: all for doing his job.

Clearly there are hard, urgent discussions required within the EITI and OGP, if their mandates are to resonate where activists need them most.

But today, I have one urgent call. Niger must release Ali and his compatriots.

The government of Niger is violating human rights. And by cloaking its uranium dealings in suspicious secrecy, it hurts its citizens’ chances of prosperity and opportunity, and the global drive for a transparent mining, oil and gas sector.

Niger’s leaders are losing stature on every single count. Its people – and the world – are literally poorer for it.

Urgent: Free our colleague Ali Idrissa, jailed for doing his job

ali idrissa

Our colleague and friend, Ali Idrissa, is in jail. By using spurious charges against him for the third time, the government of Niger pursue their disgraceful harassment of the anti-corruption movement. I urge them to see sense and free Ali and his fellow campaigners immediately.

One of the world’s largest exporters of uranium, Niger has a vital role to play in upholding the transparency of extractive industries. Fresh from its exit from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) last year (the world’s top anti-corruption programme for the mining, oil and gas sectors), Ali’s arrest marks a new phase. The government is no longer backsliding, it is in free-fall.

MineArlit1

Ali coordinates the national chapter of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) in Niger and sits on the PWYP Board. I was last with him in Brussels in October last year, at our Board meeting. A few days later, Niger was suspended by the EITI over its failure to ensure the vital civic space – a free press, unrestricted civil society – that countries need for transparency to thrive; to protect a trillion dollar sector from international corruption.

At the time, Ali worried things would only worsen. He was clear-eyed and correct, as usual. Following its suspension from the EITI, the government dramatically withdrew from the initiative altogether. And today Ali sits in a prison cell, where the government have now held him for 47 days.

Authorities claim Ali, together with 26 others, are guilty of organising an unlawful gathering to protest a new finance law – a law which experts and civil society say is regressive and opaque. The fact the government have used stalling tactics against the right to protest; that Ali was in his office, as usual, when police seized him; that they have denied him bail, and set no date for his trial; that his radio station was shut down (a decision quickly overturned by a judge) – all point to one clear conclusion: this is judicial harassment.

While this is shocking, it is barely surprising. The government have used this tactic against Ali twice before, in 2014 and 2017. Nigeriens and international actors, including the EITI, have called on the country’s leaders to show better leadership time and time again.

Moreover, the case of Ali and his fellow campaigners shows a broader, worrying pattern of governments spurning the norms and principles they claim to stand for.

As it happens, this week marks the annual civil society gathering of another inter-government transparency body: the “OpenGov Week” of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Fittingly, its themes this year include ‘fighting corruption’ and ‘protecting civic space’. Meanwhile, crises from Niger and beyond vividly illustrate just how vital these goals are.

A curious assortment of countries – Azerbaijan (who also jailed activists and journalists, and shut down media outlets), Niger, and the current United States administration – exited the EITI last year after their commitment was questioned.

In Mexico, civil society groups collectively walked out of the OGP process last year, arguing their government was not honouring their pledges.

Also last year, in September, the government of Tanzania withdrew from the OGP, all while creating an extremely difficult climate for civil society.

In the Philippines, the government publishes a “terrorist list” that includes a number of indigenous activists and leaders. These leaders are known to be involved in many important anti-mining campaigns. The Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, has also warned journalists that they “are not exempted from assassination.”

This threat has an ominous ring. Freedom of the press – and safety of journalists – is in acute crisis as civic space continues to erode. The heroic Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was murdered in a targeted car bombing last year after having uncovered a vast network of corruption involving Maltese and Azerbaijani officials. Reporters without Borders report a rise in hostility against the press and innumerable pressuring tactics.

And last month, back in Niger, TV journalist Baba Alpha was jailed, wrenched away from his family, stripped of his citizenship and forcibly exiled to Mali: all for doing his job.

Clearly there are hard, urgent discussions required within the EITI and OGP, if their mandates are to resonate where activists need them most.

But today, I have one urgent call. Niger must release Ali and his compatriots.

The government of Niger is violating human rights. And by cloaking its uranium dealings in suspicious secrecy, it hurts its citizens’ chances of prosperity and opportunity, and the global drive for a transparent mining, oil and gas sector.

Niger’s leaders are losing stature on every single count. Its people – and the world – are literally poorer for it.

Joint Press Release: Niger – Diplomatic representatives must act for the immediate release of arrested human rights defenders

Organisations including Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Publish you pay, and Tournons La Page are urging diplomatic representatives in Niger to firmly condemn human rights abuses and restrictions on civic space by asking for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders detained for exercising their right to peaceful protest.

In a joint open letter, local and international civil society organizations express their deep concern over the arrest of Nigerien human rights defenders by security forces on Sunday, March 25 and April 15, 2018. The arrests took place in connection with demonstrations organized by civil society to call for the repeal of the 2018 finance law which according to civil society in Niger would drastically increase the cost of living and increase the risk of corruption. The demonstrations were systematically banned by the authorities.

The Nigerien Constitution, and the international laws ratified by Niger uphold the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and expression exercised by our civil society colleagues. Standing up against corruption and tax injustice is not grounds for detention

said Suneeta Kaimal, Chair of the Global Council of Publish What You Pay. Since the launch of ‘Days of Citizen Action’ in January 2018, the has been a crack down on demonstrations and arrests have multiplied. For Andrea Rocca, deputy director of Front Line Defenders

these acts of the government testify to a will to muzzle the defenders of human rights. The authorities must ensure that in all circumstances defenders can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Although the human rights defenders arrested on March 25 did not take part in the demonstrations, the Niamey High Court charged them two days later with “organising and participating in the banned demonstration”, and with “complicity in an act of violence”, “assault and destruction of public property”. They were transferred to various prisons in Niger, often far from their families. On April 15, three other civil society leaders were arrested for the same reasons. Two of them have since been placed under detention while the third one has been released on bail.

In response to this critical situation, civil society organizations are calling for strong and unanimous action by the embassies present in Niamey in support of their demands for the immediate and unconditional release of the imprisoned activists.

The international community can no longer ignore the repeated violations of the fundamental rights of human rights defenders. Without strong action on, the government will feel comfortable implementing repressive policies

said Laurent Duarte, international coordinator of the campaign “Tournons La Page”.

Notes to editors

  • The signatories of the joint open letter include the following civil society organisations and networks: Amnesty International, The Article 20 Network, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC), CIMADE, CIVICUS, Front Line Defenders, Publish What You Pay, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Secours Catholique Caritas France, Tournons La Page, West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), and West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN).
  • The Finance Law for 2018 was adopted by the Parliament in Niger in November 2017. Over the past few months, civil society organisations, through a consultation framework, have been organising peaceful public demonstrations called Days of Citizen Action (DCA) to protest against the new Finance Law. According to civil society organisations, this law would result in income tax reforms and new taxes on housing and electricity which would increase the risk of corruption as well as the cost of living for the poorest.
  • The human rights defenders who were arrested on the 25th of March have since been transferred to prisons in Filingué, Ouallam, Tillaberi, Daikana and Téra which are located between 100 and 200km away from Niamey, making it difficult for family members and colleagues to visit, despite the fact that those visits are often essential for the prisoners well-being. Two of the human rights defenders arrested on 15 April have since been placed under detention and sent to prisons in Say and Kollo.

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. Amnesty campaigns for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.

Front Line Defenders is an international non governmental organization which provides rapid and practical support to human rights defenders at risk. Front Line Defenders addresses the protection needs identified by HRDs themselves.

Publish What You Pay (PWYP) is a global network of civil society organisations that are united in their call for an open and accountable extractive industry that contributes to improving the lives of women, men and youth in resource-rich countries.

Tournons la Page is an international campaign with over 200 civil society organisations active in 7 countries (Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Niger, DRC, Chad) to foster democratic renewal in Africa.

Press Contacts :

Amnesty International
Sadibou Marong, Bureau régional Afrique de l’Ouest et du Centre
Tel.+221 77 658 62 27; e-mail: sadibou.marong@amnesty.org

Front Line Defenders
Erin Kilbride, Attachée de presse, Front Line Defenders
Tel: +353 (0) 857423767 ; e-mail: erin@frontlinedefenders.org

Publish What You Pay
Asmara Klein, Coordinatrice Initiatives internationales et impact, PCQVP
Tel. +45 21228135; e-mail: aklein@publishwhatyoupay.org

Tournons La Page
Laurent DUARTE, coordinateur international
Tél : +33 650391783; e-mail: afrique.democratie@secours-catholique.org

Open letter for the release of Human Rights Defenders in Niger

open letter logos

19 April 2018

Dear Sir or Madam,

We, national and international civil society organisations, wish to express our deep concern regarding the arrest of human rights defenders in Niger by security forces on Sunday 25 March, and their detention ordered by the senior investigating judge in Niamey on Tuesday 27 March. We are also concerned about the detention of Nigerien human rights defenders following further arrests on the 15 April.

As an official representative of your government, we call on you, and other diplomatic representatives in Niger, to strongly denounce this unprecedented repression of fundamental freedoms by the governing authorities. We call on you to uphold and protect democratic values, in line with those of your government, by condemning the erosion of the rule of law in Niger and intervening with the authorities to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders incarcerated in relation to peaceful protests.

The arrests were made during peaceful protests against the 2018 Finance Law that was passed by the Nigerien Parliament in November 2017. The Nigerien authorities had banned the peaceful marches on the unfounded basis of security risks. For several months, civil society organisations, through a consultation framework, have been organizing peaceful public demonstrations called Days of Citizen Action (DCA) to protest against the new Finance Law. According to civil society organisations, this law would result in income tax reforms and new taxes on housing and electricity which would increase the risk of corruption as well as the cost of living for the poorest.
Seeking to exercise their legal right guaranteed under Article 32 of the Constitution of 25 November 2010, the demonstrators defied the ban against the peaceful marches. To break up the march, police threw canisters of tear gas at them.

On the 25 March, twenty-three people were arrested, some at the headquarters of civil society organisations, and others during the demonstration. Among the people arrested were Ali Idrissa Nani, Coordinator of ROTAB (Network of Organisations for Budgetary Transparency and Analysis) and Board member of Publish What You Pay, Nouhou Arzika, President of Mouvement patriotique pour une citoyenneté responsable (Patriotic Movement for Responsible Citizenship – MPCR), Moussa Tchangari, General Secretary of Alternative Espace Citoyens (Alternative Citizens’ Space – AEC), Lirwana Abdourahmane and 19 other people.

Despite not being part of the demonstration of 25 March, the four human rights defenders were charged by the regional court of Niamey (tribunal de Grande Instance) with organising and participating in the banned demonstration, and with complicity in an act of violence, assault and destruction of public property. They were then transferred to various prisons in Niger, often far from their families. Furthermore, the television channel run by the Labari Press Group was shut down by security forces, who entered the premises without presenting neither a warrant nor written notification from the High Council for Communication. On 28 March, the Court in Niamey ordered that Labari radio and television stations be re-opened, describing its closure and restricted access as unlawful disturbance which had no legal grounds.

In spite of these intimidation attempts by the authorities, civil society actors in Niger continue their mobilisation to call out the flaws they see in the 2018 Finance Law. Following another march organised on the 15th of April, three civil society leaders were also arrested. Maikoul ZODI, President of the Mouvement des jeunes républicains (Movement for Young Republicans) and national coordinator of the campaign Tournons la Page, Abdourahamane Idé HASSANE, President of Jeunesse pour une Mentalité Nouvelle (Youth for a New Mentality) and Ibrahim DIORI, Advocacy coordinator at Alternative Espace Citoyens (Alternative Citizens’ Space) stand accused of “participation in a banned demonstration and and destruction of public property”. On 19 April, the regional court in Niamey placed Maikoul ZODI and Ibrahim DIORI under detention and ordered their transfer to prisons in Say Kollo. Abdourahamane Idé HASSANE has since been released on bail.These new arrests point to the authorities’ willingness to leave no room for dissent on the Finance Law and to further reduce civic space.

The closure of the Labari Press Group, the mass arrest of actors from civil society and the opposition who had been peacefully protesting against the 2018 Finance Law, as well as the transfer of the accused to remote prisons all mark a new phase in the Nigerien government’s authoritarian trend. This trend has already been documented in late 2017 by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; the leading global standard for transparency in oil, gas and mining, and it demands a strong response from your government.

We urge you to remind the Nigerien authorities of their duty to respect fundamental freedoms and to demand that they drop all charges against the human rights defenders arrested on 25 March and 15 April, and to release them immediately without conditions. In addition, Nigerien authorities must be pressured to end their intimidation of dissenting voices, including through the use of judicial harassment. And they must restore a participatory environment, allowing civil society organisations to freely carry out legitimate activities in their pursuit of establishing human rights and promoting a transparent and responsible management of public finances to benefit the poorest populations. To achieve this end, we ask for your support in encouraging the Nigerien authorities to establish an open dialogue with civil society actors on their right to peaceful assembly on matters of national concern.

List of signatory organisations:

  • Amnesty International
  • The Article 20 Network>

  • Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  • Caucasus Civil Initiatives Center (CCIC)
  • CIMADE
  • CIVICUS
  • Front Line Defenders
  • Publish What You Pay
  • Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  • Secours Catholique Caritas France
  • Tournons La Page
  • West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN)
  • Africa Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay strongly condemns arrest of members in Niger

    The Africa Steering Committee (ASC) of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) strongly condemns the arrest of Ali Idrissa, coordinator of PWYP Niger, Board member of PWYP and coordinator of the Niamey-based civil society organisation ROTAB on 25 March 2018, along with his colleagues Moussa Tchangari, the General Secretary of the Nigerien NGO Alternative Espace Citoyens, and Idrissa Mama, member of the Confederation Nigerienne des Travailleurs, a trade union affiliated to PWYP Niger. Ali Idrissa and his colleagues were placed under arrest on Tuesday morning and transferred to various prisons across the country. Ali Idrissa is being transferred to the Filingué prison, 180 km from Niamey.

    The arrests occurred in conjunction with an unauthorised demonstration against the finance law voted by the Nigerien Parliament in November 2017 to set the 2018 state budget. Clearly undermining citizens’ right to peaceful assembly, the Nigerien authorities had banned the peaceful march the day before. Until then, the authorities had been refusing to engage with civil society members, including Ali Idrissa, dismissing them as political opponents. Despite this, civil society members and citizens have been taking to the streets for weeks to speak out against a law they argue will foster corruption and tax breaks for the country’s elite. The independent news outlet Labari, which regularly features pieces critical of the government’s policies, was shut down by authorities on the same day as the arrests.

    Ali Idrissa and his colleagues have long advocated for more transparency in Niger’s uranium mining sector and for the respect of the rights of Nigerien citizens. Niger is the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The detained civil society actors have also worked on protecting the principle of transparency of Niger’s natural resources which is enshrined in Niger’s 2010 Constitution.

    “For many years, Niger has been on a downward spiral in regards to its commitments to fundamental freedoms, and since it left the EITI in 2017 these commitments have rapidly eroded. We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating state of civic space faced by civil society organisations in Niger, witnessed by the continued arrests of independent voices in the country”, said Tiemoko Sangare, Chair of the PWYP Africa Steering Committee.

    We call on the Government of Niger to immediately release Ali Idrissa, Moussa Tchangri and Idrissa Mama, to reinstate Labari as an independent news outlet and to respect the freedoms of expression, assembly and association of civil society in Niger.


    Media contacts:
    Demba Seydi, dseydi@publishwhatyoupay.org, +221 77 344 59 59

    Asmara Klein, aklein@publishwhatyoupay.org, +45 21 22 81 35

    Publish What You Pay Africa Steering Committee is concerned by the continued violation of human rights in Niger

    The Republic of Niger has recently left the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in response to the suspension imposed to the country by the EITI Board. In the Nigerien authorities’ view, the EITI Board had interfered with Niger’s domestic policy regarding judicial matters involving civil society members.

    We, the Africa Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay, are deeply concerned by the lack of commitment to the principles of the EITI demonstrated by the Government of Niger. As a member of the EITI, the government of Niger had knowledge of the initiative’s Civil Society Protocol and therefore of the requirement to guarantee a healthy environment for democratic debate on the management of the country’s natural resources. Nevertheless, in recent times, the government has adopted a policy of restricting fundamental freedoms towards its civil society in the run-up to Niger’s EITI validation by increasingly restraining NGO activities. Recently, we were outraged to learn that our colleague Mr. Abass Abdul Aziz Tanko, President of the Nigerien NGO ACTICE, and his colleagues Mr. Abdoulaye Harouna and Mr. Djibo Issa, were imprisoned during an authorised demonstration. While they have since been released, their NGO was dissolved last week by the Minister of the Interior.

    These recent arrests and crackdown on NGOs are not isolated cases. In fact they indicate a broader negative trend in the country, and are evidence of Niger’s government lack of commitment to a transparent management of its natural resource wealth. The decision taken by the EITI Board was therefore legitimate and justified.

      That is why the African Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay:

  • Expresses its solidarity with its colleagues and with the PWYP Coalition in Niger and vigorously denounces these practices that date back to another era and that do not honour our continent,
  • Demands that there is an end to intimidations towards civil society actors in Niger and that the Nigerien Government respects freedoms of expression and association,
  • Asks the Nigerien authorities to give the answers they owe to the Nigerien people regarding the suspension of Niger from the EITI and the subsequent withdrawal from the initiative. In addition, we encourage the Government to take the corrective measures recommended by the EITI so that the country can rejoin the initiative,
  • Calls on African state organisations, such as ECOWAS, UEMOA and the African Union, to strongly condemn the Nigerien government’s continuous repressive actions against civil society actors and to uphold citizens’ voices and basic freedoms,
  • Asks that all CSOs to condemn the Nigerien government’s actions and join us in urging it to quickly reinstate the status of the affected NGOs.
  • Please contact info@publishwhatyoupay.org with any inquiries

    Three years after ‘win-win’ negotiations, Niger still losing out to Areva

    In 2014, Niger announced that it had successfully renegotiated uranium extraction contracts with the French multinational group, Areva. While the negotiations were hailed as being a “win-win” for both Areva and the people of Niger, analysis of newly published information from Areva has called into question if indeed the benefits are mutual.

    Given that it produces about 30% of the company’s uranium supply, it is safe to say that Niger is vital for Areva. Yet, in 2015, Niger received only 7% of Areva’s payments to producing countries, a deal which seems considerably less lucrative than that given to Kazakhstan, which was paid 74% by Areva for producing 37% of its supply. What is the basis of this discrepancy?

    comparison-of-areva-payments-new

    The discrepancy can be attributed to the well documented fact that Niger and Areva have a partnership which is far from mutually beneficial. In 2013, Oxfam France and ROTAB, both members of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), launched a campaign which highlighted how little Areva pays Niger in return for the exploitation of its uranium. On the 26th of May 2014, after many months of going back and forth, Niger and Areva announced that they had signed a strategic partnership agreement which renewed the uranium exploitation contracts. The agreement was hailed as a “win-win” for both parties. Prior to the agreement, negotiations between the two parties stalled for many months mainly due to Areva preventing Niger from implementing a new royalty fee agreement. This new royalty fee, based on the profitability of Niger’s mines was expected to boost Areva’s contribution to Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. In the end, the proposed royalty fee was included in the new agreement.

    Since the agreement came into effect, rather than bolstering Niger’s revenues as had been suggested, Areva’s payments to Niger have decreased. To help us understand why and as part of the Data Extractors programme, we analysed data published by Areva in compliance with recent European regulations, which stipulate that companies must publish payments made to the governments of the countries from which they extract natural resources. The payments we looked at are the first published by Areva since its contracts with Niger were renegotiated, and what we found was not promising.

    Uranium: A fair price?

    Royalty fees make up the majority of payments made by Areva in return for its exploitation of uranium. So the prospect of negotiating the royalty fee agreement they had with Niger seemed promising. Yet, while the amount of uranium Areva extracts from Niger has stayed relatively the same, Areva’s royalty fee payments have decreased considerably. Our analysis found that in 2013, the royalty fee payments made by Somaïr – one of the biggest uranium mines in terms of production- was more than 15 million euros. Conversely, in 2015, payments were not even up to 11 million euros, even though production levels had stayed the same.

    From the information published by Areva, we also discovered that the decrease in royalty fee payments was partly due to the decrease in the value of uranium (which is determined by the price at which Areva buys uranium from mines), which went from more than €110 to less than €79 for Niger. Because the price of uranium and royalty fee rates are inextricably linked, this decrease in price meant both the profit margins of Areva’s mines in Niger and the royalty fee payments went down. So, the decision to decrease the value of Niger’s uranium, which was taken during the ‘win-win’ negotiations, resulted in the amount paid to Niger in royalty fees being reduced. In essence, the agreement which followed the negotiations endorsed listing the price of uranium in Niger at low market rates, which does not add up when we look at Areva’s typical economic strategy. Had the price stayed the same, the new royalty fee rates would have allowed Niger to get more than 25 million euros in royalty fees from Somaïr for it uranium exploitation activities, which would have been close to 15 million euros more than it got.

    Is Niger’s uranium being undervalued when exported?

    By comparing the information published by Areva with that published by Niger’s customs, we also discovered that the uranium which Areva exports from Niger is valued as being worth less in comparison to that exported by other exporters of uranium in Niger. On average, a tonne of uranium sold by one of Areva’s branches in Niger to its headquarters is valued as being worth less than €79, while the same uranium, from the same mine, is usually exported for more than €90 by other companies in Niger. Selling at such an undervalued price reduces the profit margin of Areva’s branch in Niger, which allows the company to get away with not paying taxes to the government of Niger. If it were valued at a fair price, the uranium exported by Areva from Niger could have brought almost 30 million euros to the country in 2015, which could have paid for 18% of the health budget in a country where life expectancy is just over 60 years.

    Our analysis helped us to understand why Niger remains one of the poorest countries in the world despite its considerable potential to generate substantial wealth from its uranium. Using the data obtained through mandatory disclosure rules in the European Union, we were also able to understand why three years after contracts between Areva and Niger were renegotiated, there still seems to be inequality in the relationship between the two partners. It is evident that more than the resource asymmetries at play during the negotiations of the contract, there was also a power asymmetry which might explain why an agreement which was clearly not mutually beneficial was signed.