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*Says Buhari’s regime is an unrepentant human rights violator:

A frontline Civil Rights Advocacy group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has carpeted the Federal government for persisting in the unconstitutional pastime of oppressive policies against some media institutions considered as too INDEPENDENT and rapidly pro-people.

The Rights group said it was despicable that barely 48 hours after the United States of America through its State Department issued strong indictment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for media repression and multiple other human rights violations of the human RIGHTS of the Nigerian Citizens in its Country Human Rights Report on Nigeria in 2019,  the same government  has displayed the most despicable show of force against the media by crudely expelling reporters of the African Independent Television (AIT) and Punch Group of Newspapers from  covering a publicly funded event of the National Communications Commission. “This is absolutely condemnable and a vicious show of shame which is not supposed to be associated with a democratic administration “.

HURIWA recalled that the AIT and Punch newspaper have been barred from covering the federal government’s unveiling of 2020-2025 broadband plan by president Muhammadu Buhari that held in Abuja   even as reporters and cameramen of the two media houses were kicked out of the venue of the event being organized by NCC based on “order from above” according to security agents.

HURIWA affirmed that the action of the security forces at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari amounted to some of the worst case of tyranny and dictatorship because dictators are in perpetual and mortal fear of free and independent media. “Regrettably, these two media houses are considered as ‘enemies’ of President Muhammadu Buhari by the establishment. This action is a violation of all the fundamental rights provisions including Right to dignity of the human person amongst a plethora of other human rights provisions enshrined in chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999(as amended).  It is also an abuse of power which section 15(5) frowns against absolutely when it obliges government officials to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power. It is a crude abuse of power to prevent the media from covering a public function paid for by the people of Nigeria.

HURIWA lamented that only few days back, the current administration came under the searchlights and hammer of the WORLD’s largest democracy- the United States of America for a range of human rights breaches including arbitrary detentions of media practitioners but sadly, here are we again witnessing security brutality of media workers only because they are from media houses that the Presidency has been unable to pocket or bribe. 

HURIWA recalled that the USA had reported as follows: “Police and other security services have the authority to arrest individuals without first obtaining warrants if they have reasonable suspicion a person committed an offense, a power they often abused. The law requires that, even during a state of emergency, detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours and have access to lawyers and family members. In many instances government and security officials did not adhere to this regulation. Police held for interrogation individuals found in the vicinity of a crime for periods ranging from a few hours to several months, and after their release, authorities sometimes asked the individuals to return for further questioning. The law requires an arresting officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest, transport the accused to a police station for processing within a reasonable time, and allow the suspect to obtain counsel and post bail. Families were afraid to approach military barracks used as detention facilities. Police detained suspects without informing them of the charges against them or allowing access to counsel and family members; such detentions often included solicitation of bribes. Provision of bail often remained arbitrary or subject to extrajudicial influence. Judges often set stringent bail conditions. In many areas with no functioning bail system, suspects remained incarcerated indefinitely in investigative detention. Authorities kept detainees incommunicado for long periods. Numerous detainees stated police demanded bribes to take them to court hearings or to release them. If family members wanted to attend a trial, police often demanded additional payment.”

The US state department had also indicted Buhari thus: “The government continued to turn to the armed forces to address internal security concerns, due to insufficient capacity and staffing of domestic law enforcement agencies. The constitution authorizes the use of the military to “suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authorities to restore order.” Armed forces were part of continuing joint security operations in the Northeast, Southeast, Niger Delta, Middle Belt, and Northwest. Police, DSS, and military reported to civilian authorities but periodically acted outside civilian control. The government lacked effective mechanisms and sufficient political will to investigate and punish most security force abuse and corruption. Police remained susceptible to corruption, committed human rights violations, and operated with widespread impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and torture of suspects. The DSS also reportedly committed human rights abuses. In some cases private citizens or the government brought charges against perpetrators of human rights abuses, but most cases lingered in courts… Security personnel arbitrarily arrested numerous persons during the year, although the number remained unknown. Security services detained journalists and demonstrators during the year (see sections 2.a. and 2.b.).”

HURIWA said the action of the security forces in barring AIT and PUNCH from doing their work on behalf of Nigerians totally violates Section 22 of the NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION which states: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”

Also, HURIWA stressed that the Constitution makes it imperative for all publicly funded events to be covered by the media because Section 39 states: “(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions: Provided that no person, other than the Government of the Federation or of a State or any other person or body authorized by the President on the fulfilment of conditions laid down by an Act of the National Assembly, shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for, any purpose whatsoever. (3) Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society – (a) for the purpose of preventing the disclosure. of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or (b) imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigeria Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.”

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