The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has vowed to sue the Federal Government of Nigeria over the recent suspension of the operation of Twitter in the country if not reversed.
The caucus said the government action lacked the backing of the law and would negatively impact the image of Nigeria in the comity of democratic nations.
Leader of the caucus, Hon. Kingsley Chinda said in a statement, yesterday, in Abuja that the subsequent directive to the National Broadcasting Commission to license social media operators in the country is a surreptitious attempt to introduce the unpopular ‘Social Media Bill’ by mere executive fiat.
According to Chinda, it is a grave violation of the doctrine of separation of powers and an erosion of the rule of law.
The statement reads: ‘On Friday 4th June 2021, Nigerians received with rude shock the news of the Federal Government’s indefinite ‘suspension’ of Twitter Nigeria. This rather rash suspension was supposedly anchored on the allegation that Twitter had allowed its platform to be used “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
“The announcement by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture also insidiously instructed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT (Over-The-Top) and social media operations in Nigeria.
“As expected, this announcement has sent shockwaves amongst believers in democracy and rule of law across Nigeria and the entire world.
“We note with great concern that the suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government is one more step in a litany of attempts to restrict the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens as enshrined in and guaranteed by Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution.
“Nigerians will recall that on 4th August, 2020, the Minister of Information and Culture issued/enacted an Amended 6th National Broadcasting Code for the country which similarly imposes restrictions on sundry fundamental freedoms.
“Convinced that the Broadcasting Code is a violation of Chapter IV of the Constitution, this Caucus filed a suit before the Federal High Court, Abuja Division in Suit No.:
FHC/ABJ/CS/1136/2020 between Rep. Kingsley Chinda & 8 Ors v. Minister of Information & 2 Ors. This matter is still pending.
“We also note with great worry attempts by the government, at least going by the statement issued by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN, to prosecute Nigerians who have chosen not to be cajoled by a government intent on violating their right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution 1999, and who have continued to express themselves through their twitter handles by using the VPN application.
“The supposed suspension imposed on Twitter has no legal foundation as executive fiats, no matter the language they’re couched, have no force of law. No citizen can be tried for an offence that has no basis in law or backed by a written law and punishment prescribed”.
“For many Nigerians, social media is not only a means of escape from the drudgery of daily existence, but has become a veritable source of employment, advertisement and meaningful engagement.
“Twitter, in particular, has become an integral component of the citizens’ ability to keep the government in check and to provide real-time feedback on the impact of government’s activities on the citizenry.
“It is worrisome that, at a time when the country faces a real existential crisis and totters on the brink of implosion from acute challenges such as widespread insecurity manifesting in banditry, kidnapping and the activities of armed non-state actors across the Federation, coupled with the parlous state of the economy resulting in ballooning inflation and massive youth unemployment, the Federal Government appears to be more preoccupied with stifling the right of Nigerian citizens to freely express themselves on social media and elsewhere.
“It is imperative to state that Nigeria operates a Constitutional democracy which guarantees the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens. At the core of these freedoms is the right to free speech, for this is the foundation upon which any democratic society is built.
“The respected American broadcast Journalist Walter Cronkite succinctly captured it when he said that “Freedom of the Press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.” Any attempt to stifle free speech is therefore not only evidently unconstitutional, but in violent contravention of the very ethos of democracy.
“Therefore, we condemn the Federal Government’s decision to suspend Twitter in the strongest possible terms and call on the authorities to immediately rescind this decision in the interest of free speech and the rule of law, indeed in the interest of democracy.
“More so, this brash and rash action heavily lowers the image of Nigeria in the comity of democratic nations.
“The directive to the NBC by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to license social media operators is also a surreptitious attempt to introduce the unpopular ‘Social Media Bill’ by mere executive fiat. This, in our view, is a grave violation of the doctrine of separation of powers and an erosion of the rule of law.
“Whilst, these manifestly undemocratic actions of government on its own is grave enough, we fear that it may be a precursor to more ominous actions of blotting out dissenting voices.
“It is a known fact that as non performing, fragile or failed governments face increasing criticism from its citizenry, out of desperation, they resort to more draconian and lawless actions to intimidate and cow the citizens to consolidate its hold on power by brute force.
“As members and leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (P.DP) Caucus in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, our objectives are to ensure compliance with the rule of law, good governance, the preservation of law and order, fidelity to the principles of constitutionalism and the general adherence to democratic ethos and principles in public administration throughout the length and breadth of the Federation.
“In the discharge of our foremost duty as custodians of the Constitution and representatives of the Nigeria people, we hereby request the Federal Government to immediately reverse the decision to suspend the access of Nigerian citizens to Twitter.
“We also call on the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to immediately rescind its directive to the NBC to begin the licensing of social media operators in the Country, having regard to the absence of any enabling legislative framework for such directive.
“We hereby give you NOTICE that in the event of the failure, refusal and or neglect of the Federal Government to withdraw, reverse and/or cease the implementation of these oppressive and unconstitutional actions, we shall be constrained to institute legal proceedings at the appropriate judicial venue within the shortest possible time”.
APC, PDP Bandy Words Over Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request
The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have argued over President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval to borrow $4 billion and €710 million to fund the deficit in the 2021 budget.
Recall that the president made the request in a letter he addressed to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in reaction to the development, cautioned the NASS against approving the request, saying it could set the country’s debt profile skyrocketing without a feasible repayment plan.
With the approval to borrow $8.3 billion and €490 million loans by its legislative body barely two months ago, Nigeria’s debt profile risks reaching over N40 trillion.
“More alarming is that the debts that APC is hanging on Nigerians are for nebulous projects whose scopes, utilities, locations and contractors are largely vague; a development that validates apprehensions of a huge swindle on our nation at the expense of innocent Nigerians, including generation yet unborn.
“Our party holds it as an act of wickedness that individuals who know that they will be leaving office in less than two years will be accumulating debts instead of seeking ways to reduce the liability they have brought upon our nation.
“The APC knows it will not be around after May 29, 2023. That is why it is pushing our nation into a deeper economic quagmire with foreign loans, which are largely diverted to the personal pockets of their corrupt leaders,” the opposition PDP said in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday.
But responding to the PDP’s criticism, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, said the loans are for “the good of the country” and well-being of the citizenry.
The ruling party also accused the opposition party of looting foreign loans obtained during its 16 years rule rather than spending on infrastructure and economic growth as, according to it, Mr Buhari-led government is doing.
“It was in PDP’s era that loans to fund power generation, purchase arms and ammunition to fight a raging insurgency were misappropriated and diverted to fund PDP activities; and the borrowed money ultimately found its way to the pockets of cronies, friends and family members of administration officials. Nigeria is still servicing a $460 million loan taken from China to fund a phoney Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract awarded in August 2010.
“Nigerians should also reflect and recall that the PDP had in its 16 years of misrule pushed the country into a dark ditch of insolvency, and a period in which most state governments could not pay workers salaries, not even the minimum wage, or settle contractors’ bills and cater for patients in hospitals, to name a few,” the APC interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said.
A’Ibom Gov Signs Anti-Open Grazing Law
Akwa lbom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has signed into law a bill to prohibit open rearing and grazing of livestock and provide for the establishment of ranches in the state.
The Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uko Udom (SAN), presented the bill for signing on Wednesday at the State Executive Chambers, in the Governor’s Office, Uyo.
The governor, after signing the bill into law, stated that the new law was no respecter of persons irrespective of status or calibre.
He instructed relevant authorities of government to ensure that the law was implemented and enforced to the letter with strict compliance, stressing that, culprits must be brought to book accordingly.
The new law will promote modern techniques in animal husbandry, prevent the destruction of farms by wandering cattle while reducing clashes and killings between herders and farmers in the state.
It will also promote international best practices in livestock administration, regulation and control in the state, among other things.
The state Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday, and the Speaker, Aniekan Bassey, directed the Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to communicate the decision of the House to the Governor for his assent.
Also at the Executive Chambers, the Speaker who was accompanied by the Leader of the House, Udo Kierian Akpan, and the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren, to the signing ceremony witnessed the inauguration of two C\committees by the Governor.
The committees are the Akwa Ibom State Gender Based Violence Management Committee, chaired by the First Lady, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel, and Akwa Ibom State Road Safety Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo.
NASS S’East Caucus Moves To Reconstruct Federal System
Members of the South East Caucus of the National Assembly have resolved to join hands with other patriotic Nigerians across regional, religious, political, and ethnic divides to reconstruct a federal system where the rights, happiness, and prosperity and those of unborn generations are guaranteed.
Making their feelings known in a communique issued at the end of an extraordinary meeting held at the Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja last Wednesday, the law makers said the topic of the meeting centered on review of developments in the South East, particularly the security situation in the region vis-à-vis the sit-at-home orders by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and the detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“We expressed solidarity with our people of the South East over the marginalisation of the region in the scheme of things within the Nigerian commonwealth. The Caucus feels the pains of our people and their quest for equity, justice, and protection of their lives and property in every part of the country. The Caucus, therefore, resolved to continue to fight for a level-playing ground and an enabling federal system where Ndigbo are able to develop their homeland at their own pace and equally pursue their happiness and actaulise their enormous potentials in every part of the country, unmolested.
Reviewing the sit-at-home orders by the IPOB and the mayhem some nefarious elements have seized the opportunity to visit on the lives, properties, and psyche of the people, the Caucus equally reviewed and rued the incalculable economic losses and hardships these have brought upon the region.
They, however, condemned in strongest terms the disruption of the ongoing Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination in some parts of the South East, particularly the incident at Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume, Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, where the English examination organised by the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, on Monday, September 13, 2021, was ruthlessly scuttled by armed men, who chased away the students, teachers, and examiners before setting ablaze motorcycles belonging to the teachers.
“This is certainly not who we are as a people. On the contrary, we are a people, who have always cherished and encouraged learning from the ages. We are a people that fully appreciate the place of education in the liberation and enlightenment of the human mind and the socio-economic and political emancipation of a people”.
The South East legislators equally condemned in strongest terms the incessant killings in the South East, adding “This must stop immediately. We call on the security agencies to unravel the culprits behind these wicked acts and ensure that they are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.
“ Noted with delight that IPOB has called off the Monday sit-at-home order and resolved to ensure that nobody uses them as façades to bring ruination on Igbo land.
“ Call on our people to go about their lawful businesses and enjoin our governors and the security agencies to rebuild confidence in our people by not only ensuring the security of their lives and properties, but also ensuring that our people feel safe as they undertake their legitimate businesses.
”Elaborately discussed the issue of Mazi Nnamdi and resolved to intervene. To this end we resolved to set up a committee to constructively interface with relevant stakeholders, the Federal Government and its relevant agencies towards finding a political solution. We will keep Ndigbo abreast of developments in regard.
“Appeal to our people not to allow anyone to destroy the South East region. The post-war South East was not built through government patronage, but largely by the sheer determination and sacrifices of our people, who refused to resign to fate or bow their heads in defeat.
“It is in Igbo land that you easily find hospitals, schools, roads, and other social amenities built by individual or communal efforts of the people, home and abroad, through the instruments of the town unions and other community organisations such as the age grades, Umuada, etc.
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