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.”
Edo PDP Decries Obaseki’s Poor Performance
The Edo State Chapter of the PDP has again descended on Governor. Godwin Obaseki, describing his tenure as a hardship phase for the people.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday in Benin, the Chairman of the PDP in the state, Chief Dan Orbih, said that Obaseki had failed to offer leadership to make the people enjoy the dividends of democracy.
According to Orbih, the governor should face governance and stay out of the endless crisis rocking the state’s chapter of the APC.
Orbih, who has been a vocal critic of Obaseki’s style of governance, said his advice was imperative because the crisis in the APC had become a distraction for the governor, preventing him from offering meaningful governance.
He lamented that Obaseki’s three-year tenure had only brought agony and deprivation to the populace, denying them the benefits expected from democracy.
The PDP chieftain also advised Obaseki to desist from the “yearly jamboree” of inviting people for talks in the name of marking anniversary but to channel resources to tackling problems.
“It is obvious that the APC has nothing to offer to the people of Edo State. As at today, Edo State is the only state where only a few elected members of the State Assembly are sitting.
“More so, the governor has not delivered on the 200,000 jobs he promised youths in Edo State.
“Our roads are begging for attention. There is worsening insecurity, in spite of the huge amount of security vote he withdraws monthly.
“He should, henceforth, commence the support of security agencies in the state for efficiency and if he cannot, he should stop withdrawing or collecting security votes.
Orbih also decried the inability of the government to pay bursaries and grant scholarships to Edo students in various institutions of learning, lamenting the dilapidation of various schools in the state.
According to him, the least the government can do for the youths is to employ more teachers to tackle the dearth of teachers in the state.
“The APC promised better days for Edo State and more than 11 years after the people have nothing to show for the promise.
“Edo people should remain resolute and committed in effecting a change in government come 2020.
Orbih also condemned the state government’s clampdown on civil society groups for demanding accountability to determine the status of infrastructure in the state.
“The governor owes it a duty to account for every action of his in the state.”
On the defection of Mr Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the PDP’s flag-bearer in the 2016 gubernatorial elections to the APC, Orbih said that Ize-Iyamu was yet to inform the PDP of his decision, noting however, that the PDP in the state was intact, stronger, more united and bolder.
He disclosed that the party had concluded plans for mass mobilisation of voters, ahead of Edo 2020.
According to him, Edo PDP knows how to manage itself, and in 2020, we will do the needful because we want a party that can manage crisis.
Kogi Poll: Court Hears Suit Challenging Bello’s Eligibility, Today
A suit challenging the eligibility of Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State to contest the November. 16 governorship election in the state will be heard today, Friday, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The originating summons, which is instituted by Natasha Akpoti, the Social Democratic Party (SDP)’s governorship candidate in the forthcoming poll, will be mentioned at Court 5 before Justice Inyang Ekwo.
The Tidereports that while SDP candidate is the plaintiff, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
The suit, dated October. 10 and marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1221/2019, filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on Akpoti’s behalf, sought the court’s determination on the eligibility of Governor Bello in the Saturday election, having allegedly been involved in double registration as a voter.
Akpoti said “that by his wilful act of making double registration as a voter, Yahaya Bello, candidate of the 1st defendant is not a fit and proper person to be allowed by the 2nd defendant to vote or be voted for in the forthcoming Kogi State governorship election, having committed an act of electoral fraud.
“That Mr. Yahaya Bello, the candidate of the 1st Defendant.,was initially registered as a voter sometime in 2011 in Abuja, by the 2nd defendant.
“That Bello. the candidate of the 1st defendant again fraudulently procured from the 2nd defendant. a second registration as a voter on 23rd May,. 2017, at Government House. Lokoja, while his 2011 first registration as a voter in Abuja was still live, extant and subsisting.
“That the said Yahaya Bello, the candidate of the 1st defendant carried out the double registration with the 2nd defendant so as to scuttle due electoral process.
“That such a person is not a fit and proper person to be voted for in any election, let alone for the high office of the governor of a state.”
Recall that Justice Ekwo had, on Tuesday, delivered judgment, disqualifying the APC Deputy Governorship Candidate in Bayelsa, Sen.
Udom’s Victory, Justice Directed By Law
The Peoples Democratic Party, Akwa Ibom State chapter, has described the victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel at the Appeal Court in Calabar as justice directed by law and not through federal might or political colouration.
The Publicity Secretary of PDP in the state, Ini Ememobong said this in a reaction to the ruling of the Appeal Court on Wednesday which upheld the verdict of the Governorship election petition tribunal.
In a statement, Ememobong said, “the judgement of the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar on the Appeal filed against the verdict of the Governorship election petition tribunal by the All Progressives Congress and her Governorship candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere, delivered today has again aligned with reality by confirming the sanctity of the ballot.”
“ In the well-considered judgement, the noble Lords of the penultimate court, held that the Appeal was lacking in merit, agreeing with the tribunal that the APC did not lend credible evidence to prove their case and that they had dumped documents in the panel without linking them, as required by law.
“By this judgment, the judiciary has again shown that justice is directed by law and not federal might, partisan colouration or other extra-legal dispositions. To this, we are deeply grateful to the court and wholeheartedly welcome the judgement.”
The Publicity Secretary, however, renewed the call for partnership with the opposition APC, in the execution of Akwa Ibom Project.
He noted, “We acknowledge the zeal and emotional investments committed to the Governorship quest by Obong Nsima Ekere, an illustrious Akwa Ibom son, who rose to the exalted office of Deputy Governor through the instrumentality of our party. He has fought the fight, ran the race, but the results are not in his favour. We urge him to avoid the temptation of escalation of commitment and rather view the Akwa Ibom project as the cynosure and act in the benefit of the larger interest of the people.
“We commend Akwa Ibom people who have continually stood firm with our party, through their votes. Our legal team for diligent and excellent representation. The legal department of our Party led by the State Legal Adviser, Goddy Umoh Esq has shown great dedication in the pursuit of this case deserves commendation. God Almighty deserves our praise for His mercies and protection throughout the elections period.”
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