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Social Media Regulation And Free Speech

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and adopted as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights 1981 is a milestone document in the history of human rights.
Accordingly, Nigeria as a member-nation domesticated it as Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Amongst them is the right to freedom of expressions and the press enshrined in Section 39 of the Constitution.
Section 39(1) provides, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. Subsection 2 expansively provides, “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”.
On the other hand, the Criminal Code (Laws of the Federation – 1990) criminalized provoking breach of peace by offensive publication in Part 2. Section 88A (1)(b) provides, “Any person who publishes or circulates publications either in the form of newspapers, or leaflets, periodicals, pamphlets or posters, if such publications are likely to provoke or bring into disaffection any section of the country shall be guilty of an offence…” Similarly in subsection (1)(c).
Emphatically, the Criminal Code includes sedition as an offence under the law. Section 51(1) provides, “Any person who – (b) utters any seditious words; (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distribute or reproduce any seditious publication; shall be guilty of an offence ….., and any seditious publication shall be forfeited to the State”.
By the way, what is sedition? It simply means organized or deliberate incitement of rebellion or civil disorder against authority or the state, usually by speech or writing.
In R v Sullivan (1961) US 254, the word ‘sedition’ was described as, “a comprehensive term which embraces all practices, whether by word, deed or writing, which are calculated to disturb the tranquility of the State”. And in IGP v Anagbogu (1954) 21 NLR 26, it was held that the act of writing an article with a seditious intention is tantamount to the offence of sedition.
Now, the crux of the matter is whether the right to freedom of expression and press is an absolute or qualified right? Under permissible circumstances such as is necessarily expedient for public order and security, arguably, freedom of expression and the press cannot be absolute rights instead must be exercised with restraint subject to law.
Article 29 (2) of the UDHR 1948 provides, “In the exercise of these rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and general welfare in a democratic society”.
Synchronically, Section 45 (1) of the 1999 CFRN provides, “Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society (a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”.
In the civil jurisprudence, the freedom of expressions and the press, interestingly, are constrained by libel and slander. Logically, freedom of speech is not an unconditional right.
The right to life, for example, can be encumbered by judicial death sentence; right to free movement can be hindered by lawful arrests and jail terms, and the right to own movable property cannot be exercised by theft or stealing. Ditto on others. In other words, human rights are fundamental but not absolute rights.
Suffice it to say that putting restraints on social media activities through regulations cannot fairly lead to brouhahas. Events, in recent times, have shown that such intervention is indispensable, and without regulations, social media will do more harm than good to the society in no distant time.
Overtime, sensitive information, including falsified national reports and private issues, had been disseminated only for people to subsequently discover they were fake news. This is condemnable.
If the established media industry; audio, visual and print-media outlets with trained journalists are regulated, why should there be uproars on regulations on social media with unskilled operators? Likewise, SIM cards must be compulsorily registered and intermittently updated to assist in the onerous battle.
Any society where people can freely fabricate falsehoods, including invasive information and disseminate to the public, is in decay and, therefore, must not be encouraged to stay. Nonetheless, citizens have unparalleled rights to fairly criticize their leaders and governments on policies at any time.
Instructively, the quality of criticisms determine if oppositions are actually in existence. There is a wide difference between criticisms and incitingly feeding the people with falsehoods. No doubt, civilization opened up the world of innovations but mustn’t be subjected to extreme abuse, otherwise, it will tear the nation in pieces.
In sum, a situation where disgruntled elements would fabricate fake stories or videos to mislead the public is dangerous. It’s a threat to national security, and sensibly, cannot be permissible under the guise of exercising right to free speech and press.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abuja.

 

Carl Umegboro

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Opinion

Which Way Nigeria?

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With the damning reports of violence, murder, arson from last weekend’s election in Bayelsa and Kogi States, one cannot help but join the late music legend, Sunny Okosun, to ask “Which Way Nigeria?”
Seeing the quantum of problem facing the nation – corruption, poverty, inflation, inefficiency and many more, the Ozzidi band leader released the hit song in 1984, asking where the country was headed and calling on all and sundry to join hands to save it from dying.
Sorrowfully, 35 years later, the story has not changed. Some even say the situation is worse now. The gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening, a few people have everything while many have nothing. The ruling class is dominated by greedy, selfish politicians who will do anything to get into power or remain in power. They have turned elections in the country to war where innocent people’s blood are spilled with reckless abandon and members of opposition political parties intimidated and molested.
Around the world, the issue of underrepresentation of women in politics and decision making is receiving considerable attention because it has been recognized that inclusion in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democracy. Improved representation of women has been shown to have benefits such as economic change, improved policy changes, peace building and others.
Many countries are, therefore, working hard to bridge the gap between male and female participation in politics with some African countries like Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Namibia, making the list of top 15 countries in the world with highest number of female representation in politics. They are said to have 64, 42.7, 41.7, 41.3, and 39.6 per cent female representation in politics, respectively.
In Nigeria, however, the reverse seems to be the case. The number of female law makers and top politicians is still a far cry from the affirmative action principle.  In the current National Assembly, for instance, out of 406 lawmakers, we have only 18 women (seven senators and eleven House of Representatives members). In the immediate past 8th Assembly, women occupied eight out of 109 Senate seats and 22 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives. The story was not different in the preceding years, where minute percentages of the lawmakers both at the federal and state levels were women.
In the 59 years of existence of the country as an independent entity, only one woman, Dame Virgy Etiaba, has occupied the position of a governor, an authority she assumed following the impeachment of the then Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, by the state Assembly in 2007. She was on the seat for only three months before going back to being the Deputy Governor following Obi’s re-instatement after the Court of Appeal nullified his impeachment.
It is, therefore, saddening to hear or read reports about women who are making efforts to participate in politics despite the high cost of electioneering campaigns and other logistics, being molested, abused or even killed. In the just concluded Kogi State election, a female governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Natasha Akpoti, was allegedly attacked and molested by thugs believed to be loyal to the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, at the venue of INEC stakeholders’ meeting in Lokoja  in the full glare of police officers and other security agencies.
Watching her narrate her ordeal on a national television drew tears to my eyes. She was called all kinds of unprintable names just because she is a woman trying to exercise her legal rights. In the end, she had to leave the venue and did not take part in the meeting. Earlier, her party’s secretariat was reportedly razed and valuable properties and documents destroyed.
Also in Kogi, the PDP Women Leader, Mrs  Acheju Salome Abuh, was on Monday murdered in cold blood in her home by suspected political thugs. They were said to have poured petrol on the building and set it ablaze and waited, shooting and watching with relish while Mrs Abuh cried from inside the inferno until her voice died out. The blood thirty thugs reportedly left only when the victim and the entire house had been burnt to ashes.
Now tell me, how many women will be bold to participate in politics, particularly in that community, after such dastardly act? How many women, and even men, will be willing to stick out their necks in our war-like elections where anybody’s life could be taken at any time? Many of us must have watched the heart-rending video of the burial of a youth corps member whose life was cut short during the Kogi election. Every election increases the number of people killed in election violence in the country.
The most worrisome thing is that perpetrators of these heinous crimes are never apprehended nor punished. At most, we hear the police announce that some of them have been arrested and will be brought to book but we hardly see that happen. After the initial “noise”, mostly by civil society groups and other concerned bodies and individuals, we carry on as if nothing happened.
And one continues to wonder how the nation can move forward in this manner. Former President Goodluck Jonathan once declared that his political ambition was not worth the blood of any citizen but our current leaders think otherwise. They don’t care even if all the people perish for them to win an election.
As many concerned individuals have suggested, we truly need a whole lot of value reorientation. We need to be reminded that violence does not pay and that peace is paramount in life. Political positions should also be made less attractive to reduce the clamour for them. It is also important that the Electoral Law Amendment Bill be re-introduced at the National Assembly, with all the necessary amendments made so that it can hopefully receive Mr. President’s assent. This will possibly make room for electronic voting as well as address most of the anomalies we have in our current electoral system.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Checking Indiscriminate Waste Disposal

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Since the beginning of time, people have needed to find a way of disposing their trash. It is imperative to note that proper waste disposal is important to ensure safety of life and avoid possible health hazards.
Indiscriminate waste disposal is an improper way or manner by which individuals and organizations get rid of their trash. These practices include dumping refuse by the roadside, along streets, on major roads, as well as in various rivers.
Solid waste generation has greatly improved to an uncontrollable rate in the society, this happens due to human daily activities and economic activities.
Due to inadequate waste disposal methods, dumping of refuse in unauthorized places is now the order of the day. Overpopulation, industrial revolution and urbanization have become major causes of waste generation as well as improper waste disposal.
Lack of appropriate storage facilities , unavailability of proper waste management and planning ,wrong perception by residents and nonchalant attitude toward the environmental cleaning and sanitation, is also a cause if this indiscriminate waste disposal.
The problem of indiscriminate waste disposal has brought so much pain and ills to the environment and society at large. We can point fingers at the outbreak of various epidemics, infectious diseases, and other human environmental degradation such as flooding, drainage obstruction and waterway blockages in most parts of the country like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Aba, etc. It has been noted that heaps of littering trash are in virtually all market areas, on the streets and even on the roadside and these wastes remain there for many weeks without devising any means of waste collection, either by private individuals or the government.
Some areas have also been abandoned when inspections are going on by the government, or even during environmental sanitation. I assume such attitude is an act of negligence on the part of waste disposal agencies or the environment ministry.
Waste management and indiscriminate waste disposal, is one menace that has to be curbed with immediate effect, and checkmating the activities of persons who dispose waste products in an improper way, must be done from the grassroots level. It is a joint effort from both the government and citizens of the nation and this must start from the family.
Government should focus on collection of waste products from households. They should encourage homes and individuals to bag their wastes in plastic bags as this would help to avoid littering.
Most people drop biscuit wrappers, cans, bottles and water sachets by the roadside in cars and on highways, which is why the government should move and foster for a cleaner and healthier environment.
There should be adequate financing for each state to support and help them in waste disposal projects. Waste bins must be placed in strategic areas on streets and communities for effective monitoring.
Illiteracy and low level of education is another factor that can constrain the thinking of most citizens. For instance, in places such as GRA, Victoria Island, and other known places where the supposed educated elite reside, and do daily business, inadequate waste disposal or improper refuse dumping is barely seen or is at the lowest because they know the dangers of the act and how littered their environment can be. But in these places where the average or low class citizens live, it is on a high range, therefore, proper sensitization and advocacy programs should be done to educate the general public as to why they should disease from dumping waste indiscriminately.
The government should also encourage individuals who set up private waste collection agencies by reducing taxes paid and also workers of the ministry of environment. What take part in cleaning these waste from the roadside from time to time, should be encouraged by increasing their take home pay. This would enable them see the work as a responsibility and thereby curb nonchalance.
Laws and sanctions should be made to discourage persons who engage indiscriminate waste disposal. Persons could be arrested and persecuted by a court if they flaunt orders. Fines can also be issued depending on the level of offence by anyone who is caught.
Apart from all these measures mentioned above, the government should also encourage practice such as recycling of industrial waste products such as cans, bottles, papers, clothes, etc. Also, biowaste products which includes those materials that can decay such as food items, leaves, banana peels should be biologically turned into manure and fertilizers.
This is why the government should set up recycling agencies and also monitor the collection of this waste to avoid improper disposal.
Unlawful solid waste dumping in the society must be checkmated. There is an urgent need for government and private stakeholders to implement policies that can prevent the littering of waste in the environment. Human health and the environment need to be safe guarded from unsustainable conditions which are caused by indiscriminate waste disposal in our society.
The government alone does not have the responsibility of checking indiscriminate waste disposal also it is the duty of every organization and individual to take it upon themselves to keep the environment healthy and clean.
Dennar is a student of Abia State University, Uturu.

 

By: Ngozi Dennar

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Opinion

The Restructuring Nigeria Needs

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Each time the mention of restructuring of Nigeria is made, what comes to the minds of many Nigerians is ‘ Nigeria’s federalism’; how it has failed to engender development, national integration and solve burning issues of minority question, marginalisation, ethno-religious crises, etc. For these reasons, they get hell-bent on restructuring the country.
Yes, the political space has been bastardised that it seems everything must be wrong with our government system. An advocate of restructuring will say that Nigeria fared better when we operated as Northern, Eastern and Western regions than now.
Surprisingly, amidst various calls for restructuring, reasons why this same federal system which benefits countries like Ethiopia, USA and India, is counter-productive in Nigeria, appear yet to be given thought to.
Speaking on this during a public debate recently, a professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, Bayo Okunade, noted that unless some fundamental issues are addressed, the problems would persist with or without restructuring.
Nevertheless, Vincent Aluu (2018), in his work, ‘True Federalism and Restructuring in Nigeria’, wrote that Nigeria is operating a federal system in an awkward manner that does not reflect true federalism as enunciated by Professor K.C Wheare.
Wrong application of the tenets of federalism, high level political instability, ethno/religious crisis, etc, Aluu alluded, have culminated into frictions and clashes posing serious threat to Nigeria’s political and economic development, and national integration.
If Aluu’s allusion is anything to go by, it means the baton obviously falls back at the players themselves, making it imperative to restructure ourselves first before the system. In line with this understanding, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while urging Nigerians to learn from the Brexit experience and prevent similar occurrence, said, “If anything needs restructuring, it must start with us as a people.”
This is because, for a system to work, there has to be consistency with the construed norms and supportive ethos that will make it work. if we have those things that do not want the current system to work, especially the nature of the political class, corruption, all these tendencies like nepotism and others, they will consistently remain cogs in the wheel of the country’s progress.
In a keynote address he gave at Island Club’s 76th anniversary lecture on Lagos Island, Friday, Fashola emphasized the need to put up a positive attitude as a people, instead of erroneously clamouring for institutional change or restructuring, stating that a new territory doesn’t necessarily translate to a better life.
In his words, “A good document not backed by the right attitude does not take a people far. If anything really needs restructuring, it must start with us as a people, with our attitude and with our mindset”. He advocated that Nigerian youth, who are considered leaders of tomorrow, should be given political education to make them understand the issue of restructuring to avoid replicating the Brexit experience.
Fashola’s words reminded me of the effort made by late Prof. Dora Akunyili, a former minister for information and communications, in this regard, while she lived. The late minister whose understanding of restructuring falls in alignment with Fashola’s, floated the idea of “Re-branding Nigeria Project”.
The whole essence of Akunyili’s endeavour, was to encourage Nigerians to consciously “work on themselves” so as to change the pervading negative perception of the country in the comity of nations. Her courage, no doubt, may have been spurred by the words of late Chief Anthony Enahoro, an elder statesman and one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria.
The late national hero was quoted thus: “I am about the only one left of my generation that fought for Independence. I would be very sad if I die leaving Nigeria behind the way she is now. My goal is to help… see Nigeria better governed; then, one might leave”.
Enahoro’s goal of seeing Nigeria better governed appears to have been scuttled by greed and selfishness of leaders which has metamorphosed into all shades of corruption. His feeling should apply to all patriotic Nigerians of uprightness to rise to the challenge of quitting the beaten track of institutionalised corruption as a way of life, and re-orientating the citizenry towards playing meaningful roles as responsible members of the global community.
We might be toeing the line of failure if we continue to fault existing institutions without seeing the need to purge or sanitise the operators of the system or institution. Little wonder, our elders say that it is a bad workman that quarrels with his tools. Nigeria needs men of proven integrity to propel its developmental wheel and land it safely.
Nation-building may well be hard to achieve, but it needs not be as difficult as we make it in Nigeria. Nation-building is also intentional. It doesn’t happen by accident. The real test is in the leadership and the actions that create a real spirit of nationhood, and the willingness of every stakeholder to build a united, stable and cohesive nation. It is unfortunate that 59 years after Independence, we are still confronted with the imperative of defining a future for Nigeria.

 

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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