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Promote Press Freedom, Dogara Tells Judiciary

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, at the weekend in Abuja, made a robust case for freedom of the press and asked the Judiciary to step-up the plate and give consequence to citizens liberty through courageous and independent pronouncements and decisions.
Mr Dogara was speaking as a special guest at the conference on “Press Freedom in Nigeria, Rule of Law, Media and Violent Extremism,” to mark the 2019 World Press Freedom Day.
The conference, which held at the at the Chelsea Hotel, was organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism in partnership with the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption program of the British Council. It was funded by the European Union Mission to Nigeria.
“We need the judiciary to be truly independent and have the courage to make bold pronouncements if press freedom will find ground in our democracy. lawmakers can only pass motions which the executive can always ignore but if a judicial pronouncement is flouted, an independent judiciary can always enforce compliance,” he said.
In assessing the current state of government-press relations in Nigeria, Mr Dogara ran hard knocks on the government saying it is “anything but banal” adding that “we are all witnesses to recurring examples of coercion, threats, brutality, arrests, incarceration and media shut down perpetrated by the state against journalists and their establishments.”
He pointed at instances of what he characterised as “draconian measures adopted by State actors abound during the recent elections held in parts of the country and the General Elections” and remarked that such “attacks on the independence of the Press greatly inhibit effective media practice and does not augur well for good governance and democracy.”
Comparing Nigeria’s records on government-press relations to other democracies, the speaker said “governments’ efforts must never be to make our citizens docile and obedient” because, as he puts it, “that’s what repressive regimes do best, but our goal must be to keep our citizens active and informed with the skills to questions the questions and question the answers if they so wish.”
Democracies are built by refusing to censor the free press Mr Dogara asserted, stressing that “Ours cannot be different.”
Commenting on the expanded meaning of press freedom, Mr Dogara said “press freedom is not negotiable and direct violence to journalists is not the only threat. Those who attack the media as “fake news” or “enemy of the people” in order to erode the credibility of the press are as dangerous as those perpetrating violence against journalists.”
He isolated media outfits that uphold the ethics of fairness, objectivity, truthfulness and patriotism in their journalism as distinct and deserving the support of the legislative arm of government but he frowned at hate speech which he said is “not free speech and must not have a place in a democracy.”
Mr Dogara argued that while “speeches that elicit debates are welcome …speeches that incite to violence must be punished,” and with that, he took a guided review of the debate on how to regulate hate speech and the social media.
He said: “The amount of falsehood and incitement to violence unleashed daily in the Social Media may lead to unmitigated disruptive disaster one day if not checked. I guess the time is ripe for us as Nigerians to have a frank conversation on this issue.” But he rejected the view that this was the responsibility of the legislative arm of government.
“Maybe the solution and the debate should be led this time by the Media and Civil Society Organisations,” he said, laying a template upon which such debates will be conducted. “We must be honest enough to admit that there is no freedom without responsibility,” Mr Dogara stressed.
However, Mr Dogara pointed out that a debate to regulate hate news and misinformation must be erected on the vision of an independent judiciary and an independent media regime, in line with the spirit of the May 2016, Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Countering Violent Extremism proposed by the United Nation in Helsinki, Finland, which proposed that:
“Restrictions on freedom of expression must be subject to independent judicial oversight, [since] Anywhere democracy struggles, it will be because of a weak Judiciary.
“A key part of any strategy to combat terrorism and violence should be to support independent media and communications diversity.”

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CROSIEC Deploys About 8,000 Personnel For LG Elections

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Ahead of the next Saturday’s rescheduled Local Government elections in Cross River, about 8000 personnel are said to have been deployed across the state to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections.
The Chairman of the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr. Mike Ushie, who disclosed this in Calabar while
speaking on preparations by the commission, said they are ready for the elections and one hundred percent compliant with post COVID-19
elections guidelines recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission as well as the National Centre for Diseases
Control.
He said: “Eight thousand personnel have been mobilised to cover the two thousand, two hundred and twenty-six polling units in the state.
There will be three personnel per pooling unit, five at the accreditation centres, five at the local government and ward coalition centres.
“Accreditation and voting will take place simultaneously and  in line with INEC guidelines, there will be two levels of queuing  and voters
will vote in batches while maintaining social distance.
“We had to make sure that we are on course and lives are protected. Luckily INEC released the procedure for post COVID-19 elections and I
must say that we are in full compliance with it. INEC said we have to provide hand sanitizers, face masks and we have adopted all the
procedures one hundred percent.
“ We have gone beyond INEC  and have gone ahead to procure hand sanitizers, hand washing containers, a good number of face masks  and
we are working seriously to ensure that the right thing is done”, he said.
He added that the commission has given sufficient notice for the elections and confirmed that five political parties will be participating in Saturday’s elections.
From FRIDAY NWAGBARA, Calabar.
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Ambassador Desmond Akawor Inaugurated As New Rivers State PDP Chairman

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The new Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Executive Council has been inaugurated in Port Harcourt.
Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly,  Mr Ikuinyi Ibani administered the oath of office on the new executives led by Ambassador Desmond Akawor.
In a charge, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike called on the new executives to work towards consolidating the gains of the immediate past Executive led by Bro Felix Obuah.
He commended immediate past Rivers State PDP Chairman,  Bro Felix Obuah for leading to victory .
He said: “We had challenges at the beginning, but that Executive was committed to service. Obuah has shown capacity to deliver.  It will not be easy for the new executives, but the new executives must start to prepare the party for the challenges ahead.
“Work hard to surpass the records of the past executives.  Working together is key, unity is key.”
Speaking further, Governor Wike said that the Rivers State Government will never condone criminality or any attempt to violate the law.
He said: “But for the steps that , the number of cases would have been more. What makes a leader is the ability  to be firm. I value life more than property.
“Since 2015, we have not demolished any property.  But, someone who was SSG superintended over the demolition of several properties.  Now the person is talking about the draconian process.
“My joy is that majority of Rivers people love what we are doing.”
Governor Wike added that from Information from the State Health Commissioner,  the State is likely to have more cases,  mostly oil workers.
National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus congratulated the new Rivers State PDP Executive Committee,  advising them to work for the growth of the party.
Commenting on the fight against coronavirus,  Uche Secondus blasted the Federal Government for refusing to assist State Governments and provide direction for the country.
He said: “The Governors are working without help from the Federal Government.  But for God, the situation would have been worse.
“Governors are running from pillar to post. We must be grateful to Governor Wike for the initiative that he took. What the Governor has done has helped to drastically reduce the number of cases.
“Rivers State is lucky to have Governor Wike at this time of crisis .”
He said those who spread negative propaganda do so out of hatred.
New Rivers State PDP Chairman,  Ambassador Desmond Akawor thanked ththe leadership and members of the party for giving him the opportunity to serve.
He said God has used Governor Wike to rebuild a new Rivers State.  He saluted the resilience of PDP in weathering the storm.
Akawor assured that the new Executive will serve the party diligently.
Immediate Past PDP State Chairman,  Bro Felix Obuah said that the Executive Committee under his leadership led the party to victory  since 2015.
He said that the outgone Executives will continue to work for the party  to ensure future victory.
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Bode George Urges FG To Relax Lagos Lockdown

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A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George has urged federal government to relax the lockdown it imposed on Lagos State as a result of COVID- 19 pandemic.
George, who made the call in a statement in Lagos, yesterday said the lockdown imposed since March 29 was adversely affecting livelihoods and bringing up security challenges.
He said though government intended to curb the spread of the virus with the lockdown, the directive had left many Nigerians hungry at home without palliatives.
The PDP chieftain noted that there must be a balance between curbing the spread of the virus and protecting livelihoods and asked the government to relax the lockdown while putting safety measures in place.
“Everywhere in Lagos is now locked down. The markets, banking halls, the local grocery shops, the supermarkets, the transportation services are all halted, frozen by the federal government directives since March 29.
“On the surface level, the federal government’s position is to ensure safety, prevent communal spread of the virus and banish this scourge from our shores.
“Lagosians have been staying at home for about a month now. In a largely informal economy where most of our people depend on daily wages, the burden of lack of income is devastating.
“There is a natural growing anger in Lagos as the most vulnerable are ravaged with hunger,” George said.

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