The front banners of major newspapers in Nigeria on Monday bore a picture of an individual with a sealed mouth.
“Information Blackout,” read the caption that ran with the picture. “It’s not just against the media….it’s about society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”
The message is a joint release from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN).
It is expected to be the chyron on television stations, the jingles on radio stations and the lead graphics on online media.
This is a pushback by media organisations in the country against the Buhari government’s brazen attempt to regulate social media and censor the press through controversial media bills at the National Assembly.
The controversial bills are the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act amendment bills.
Existing censorship on broadcast stations persists, and instances, where the stations are ordered to stop the broadcast of programmes the government feels uncomfortable with, are rife. Heavy fines are imposed at will when there is an alleged breach.
The latter gives the president the right to appoint the chairman of the board of the Nigerian Press Council (NPC). It also empowers the president to appoint all other members of the board upon the recommendation of the information minister.
“I stand resolutely by the NUJ, NGE and NPAN in its campaign against information blackout as represented by the NPC and NBC (Media) Act amendment Bills,” a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, wrote on Facebook Monday evening. “Freedom of the press and access to information is the oxygen of democracy and must never be compromised.”
Attempts At Stifling Free Speech
Since coming to office, the Buhari administration has made clear its preference for controlling, or possibly, silencing the media. Mr Mohammed, a lawyer and former spokesperson for the ruling All Progressives Congress, has led the effort to actualise that mandate.
Mr Buhari ran a repressive military dictatorship in the early 1980s and his government jailed journalists and critics, and enacted draconian anti-press decrees.
As a candidate seeking to return a civilian president, Mr Buhari claimed he had become a “reformed democrat”.
His government’s initial attempts to regulate social media through a bill at the National Assembly fell flat largely due to public backlash. The government has now clawed back its resolve through the newly introduced controversial media bills.
Mr Mohammed says it is the practice across the world. However, PREMIUM TIMES has shown his narrative is flawed as most of the countries Nigeria seeks to emulate are ranked poorly in the press freedom and on the human development index.
In June, the government banned Twitter after the social media platform deleted President Buhari’s post, and threatened to prosecute Nigerians who continued with its use. The administration has refused to reverse the decision despite public backlash and international condemnations. It, however, later admitted it lacked the legal backing to go after Twitter users.
Rights groups and activists have criticised the government’s move to regulate the media and have demanded greater transparency in government.
“The National Assembly should not enact any law that will deny press freedom,” the executive director of the International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, told PREMIUM TIMES in June.
“The public should know that an assault on the media is an assault on them. It’s not a media battle alone, it is for everyone,” Mr Arogundade added.
A coalition of civil society organisations including Amnesty International and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) also lashed at the bills in a recent statement.
“The Nigerian authorities have continued to propose laws to regulate the social media, and restrict the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom, including through legislative bills popularly known as the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and ‘The Social Media Bill’ which both provide severe punitive sanctions such as the death penalty in some cases, for social media users convicted of ‘crimes’ provided under them.”
UN Deputy Sec Gen Condemns Gruesome Killing of Deborah, Demands Justice
Amina Muhammed, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, has called for justice following the killing of Deborah Yakubu in Sokoto over blasphemy.
Muhammed spoke out via her official Twitter page on Tuesday, stating that religions should not be “misinterpreted to preach violence”.
“Justice must be done for the senseless, brutal killing of the young Deborah Yakubu in Nigeria. Religions should not be misinterpreted to preach violence when they promote peace.
“My prayers are with the family and for the repose of her soul,” she tweeted.
On Monday, the Sokoto Police Command arraigned two suspects, Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci, before a Chief Magistrate’s Court in the state, for their alleged participation in the crime.
The suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges while the defence counsel, Prof. Mansur Ibrahim, applied for their bail on liberal terms, citing constitutional provisions and sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
The trial judge reserved the ruling on the bail application and ordered the accused to be remanded at a correctional centre.
AfDB’s Adesina Not Contesting for Presidency – Report
The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina, will not be contesting the Presidency of Nigeria.
A support group had purchased and submitted the N100m Presidential form of the All Progressives Congress for the top banker last week.
Some had also reported that Adesina visited Mamman Daura, the influential nephew of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) last week to seek his support.
But The PUNCH confirmed that Adesina will not be taking part in the Presidential screening of the APC slated for May 23.
Adesina’s office is expected to issue a statement in a few hours distancing himself from Nigeria’s partisan politics.
The AfDB regulations bar its President from partisan politics.
Specifically, Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the agreement establishing AfDB, titled ‘Prohibition of Political Activity; the International Character of the Bank’, states that “The Bank, its President, Vice Presidents, officers and staff shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member (country); nor shall they be influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member (country) concerned.”
Paragraph 3 of the article states that “The President, Vice Presidents, officers and staff of the Bank, in discharge of their offices, owe their duty entirely to the Bank and to no other authority.”
Similarly, the AfDB code of conduct bars its executive from partisan politics. Section 10 of the Code reads: “Although Executive Directors are elected representatives of governments from their constituencies, they shall during their tenure of office as executive directors refrain from participating in active politics in their home countries or elsewhere.”
Should Adesina seek to run for the office of President of Nigeria, he would need to resign his current position permanently, a risk it was learnt the top banker was not willing to take.
There are at least 25 other aspirants running for President on the platform of the APC.
Some of them include APC stalwart, Bola Tinubu; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; former Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi; Senate President Ahmad Lawan; oil mogul, Tein Jack-Rich; Senator Ajayi Boroffice; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State and many others.
N80bn Fraud: EFCC Arrests Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris
Nigeria’s Accountant-General, Ahmed Idris, has been arrested over alleged money laundering and diversion of public funds, according to a report by PREMIUM TIMES.
According to the report, Idris was intercepted in Kano by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday evening and flown to Abuja, the nation’s capital, for interrogation.
Sources said the EFCC has for sometime now been investigating a case of diversion of at least N80 billion in public funds which was allegedly laundered through some bogus contracts.
The companies used in laundering the funds have allegedly been linked to family members and associates of the accountant-general, investigators said.
The sources further said that after progress was made in the investigation, Idris was summoned repeatedly for interrogation but he failed to honour the invitations.
“We kept inviting him but he kept dodging us,” one of our sources said. “We were left with no choice than to keep him under watch and arrest him.”
However, a top EFCC confirmed the development but asked not to be named because he had no permission to discuss the matter with the media.
President Muhammed Buhari appointed Mr Idris accountant-general on June 25, 2015.