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Order Buhari, NASS To Withdraw Bills To Gag Media, SERAP Tasks African Commission

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia to “issue provisional measures to urgently stop the Nigerian government and National Assembly from supporting and pushing through two bills to gag the media, and impose arbitrary and harsh punishment on journalists, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners in Nigeria.”
SERAP said, “The complaint, addressed to the Chairperson of the commission, Mr Solomon Ayele Dersso, and Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Ms Jamesina Essie L. King, is brought pursuant to Articles 55 and 56 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Rule 100 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission.”
The complaint followed the move to push through two repressive bills to amend the National Broadcasting Act, and to amend the Nigeria Press Council Act.
The bills are reportedly sponsored by Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon Segun Odebunmi (PDP, Oyo State).
In the complaint dated June 26, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said, “The push by the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to support and pass the two anti-media bills is unlawful, as passing the bills would be contrary to the country’s obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom under Articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter.”
According to SERAP, “These anti-media bills are the latest threats to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom in the country. The bills are not in keeping with the provisions of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, which supplements Articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter.”
SERAP said, “The commission has the power to request provisional measures from the Nigerian government and National Assembly under Rule 100 of the Rules of Procedure to prevent irreparable harm and threats to human rights including freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom as urgently as the situation demands.”
The complaint reads in part, “The bills include retrogressive provisions that threaten human rights, including freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom, and could criminalize reporting and give the government overly broad powers and oversight over journalists, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners.
“If passed into laws, the bills would be used by those in power to intimidate and harass their critics, and to stifle freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom. The bills would have a chilling effect on the media thereby inducing some measure of self-censorship.
“Media freedom, which is an aspect of the right to freedom of expression, is now generally recognised as an indispensable element of democracy. The mass media promotes the free flow of information, which enables citizens to participate in a meaningful and informed manner in the democratic process.
“The actions by the Nigerian government and National Assembly are contrary to Articles 1 and 9 of the African Charter, and have thereby violated Nigeria’s positive obligation under Article 1 to recognise the rights, duties and freedoms and to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.”
“SERAP regularly relies on the media to carry out its mandate in the promotion of transparency and accountability and respect for socio-economic rights of Nigerians.
“The Nigerian government and National Assembly are directly responsible for pushing the bills that would gag the media and impose harsh punishment on journalists, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners in the country, action in violation of the African Charter, and therefore, also in violation of Article 1 of the Charter.
“Nigerians, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners in the country face a real and immediate risk of violation of their rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom if the anti-media bills are not urgently withdrawn.
“The Nigerian government and National Assembly have failed to produce any evidence that the two bills are necessary or lawful, and in the absence of such, SERAP asks the commission to order the immediate withdrawal of the bills by Nigerian authorities.
“The media also serves as a watchdog by scrutinising and criticising public officials over the way they manage public affairs and public resources. In the performance of these functions, the media’s debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open. Speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.
“A free press is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy, one in which journalists are both benefactors and beneficiaries of human rights and carrying out their professional duties to inform their communities and enable democratic participation.
“Individual journalists cannot do their jobs if the institution of the press is compromised or if the legal protections for that institution are subject to approvals by political authorities.
“The exhaustion of domestic remedies requirements set out in Article 56(5) of the African Charter has been met. There are no effective or sufficient local remedies available to the Complainant.
“Nigerian courts do not entertain cases on the legality of anti-media and anti-human rights bills. Also, one of the lawmakers pushing the bills Mr Odebunmi Olusegun has reportedly boasted that ‘No court will stop us from passing the bills. Requiring SERAP to exhaust domestic remedies in such circumstances would be a mockery of justice.
“Under the bills, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) can shut down TV and radio stations ‘in the public interest’ and the press code must be approved by the Minister of Information. The overly broad definition of public interest opens the door for the Nigerian government to crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
“The bills would also allow the Nigerian government to jail journalists, fine newspapers up to N10million ($20,000) or close them for up to a year if they publish ‘fake’ news. Under the bills, journalists could be held liable for the offence committed by their organisations and can be made to pay heavy fines.”
SERAP, therefore, urged the commission to request the following provisional measures from the Nigerian government and National Assembly, “Immediately withdraw the oppressive bills to gag the media. The first is the bill to amend the National Broadcasting Act, and the second, is the bill to amend the Nigeria Press Council Act.
“Immediately end harassment and intimidation of journalists, broadcast stations, media houses and media practitioners in Nigeria, and to respect the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom, Unless the African Commission urgently intervenes in this case, there is a risk of irreversible denial of the complainant’s and Nigerians’ rights, which in turn will render nugatory the resolutions and declarations by the African Commission on freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
“Give assurances that they will not support and pass the anti-media bills being pushed by Nigerian authorities. The Nigerian authorities should also give assurances that they will fully implement the resolutions and declarations on freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom in the country.
“Undertake a prompt review of Nigerian legal framework and administrative practices on freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom to ensure their consistency and compatibility with the African Charter, and resolutions and declarations by the African Commission. Pending this, the Nigerian government should take concrete steps to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom, and ensure that journalists and media practitioners are able to carry out their work freely, without any intimidation and harassment”, SERAP added.

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City Crime

Anglican Bishop Hails Wike’s Support For Church

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The retiring Anglican Bishop of Niger Delta Diocese, Ralph Cornelius Ebirien, has commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his invaluable contributions to the church, saying that the governor has shown much love and support to the church.
Ebirien stated this during his pre-retirement press briefing at the diocesan church headquarters in Port Harcourt, yesterday, as part of activities marking his retirement and pulling out from Anglican priestly ministry as well as to mark his 70th birthday celebration, tomorrow.
The bishop, who is the sixth diocesan bishop of Niger Delta, said that the governor, through his generosity and support to the diocese, renovated the Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema, making the school one of the best schools in the state.
“God used Governor Nyesom Wike to renovate the Nyemoni Grammar School, today is among the best.We thank him for his love, also his Deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo, who is a member of diocese. They have shown us love and support”.
Recounting his 12 years’ achievement as the bishop of the diocese, Ebirien disclosed that prominent of his flagship programmes include yearly Sunday school conference, continuous training and re-training of pastors and the clergy, planting of new churches as well as giving scholarship to indigent members of the church, among others.
“We are committed to spiritual development through the revival of the Sunday school conference. The number of people we confirmed was over 5,000;we admitted many into mother’s guild, teach people Bible and prayer ministry.”
The out-going bishop, while commending members and the clergy for the support given to his family in the past 12 years, advised them to let brotherly love that has bound the church together continue, adding that what took the church to its present height was love.
“Bring the little you have for the work of God. Recognise Him as your helper, be appreciative and grateful”, he said.
Ralph urged members of the church not to be aloof in political participation but be active players in the polity.
“Get your PVC so as to vote credible men that will be God-fearing and help the church, irrespective of your party affiliation during the next elections”.
The bishop in company of members of the clergy and the leadership of the church, paid his last episcopal visit to the Port Harcourt Children Home, and Our Saviours’ Hospital owned by the church,where he donated food items, and also prayed for the inmates.

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Business

Lagos To Partner Firm On Digital Economy

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The Lagos State Governor, BabajideSanwo-Olu, has said that the State will  partner with TERAWORK, a tech platform for hiring freelancers, to explore the gig and digital economy.
According to Sanwo-Olu,  this partnership will help upskill youths and train them to seize employment opportunities in tech industries globally.
He disclosed this while paying a visit to the business stand of the company during the Lagos Employment Summit organised by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, recently.
“The Lagos State Government is scaling its intervention in critical areas of the economy. As part of that effort, we are rejigging the activities of the LSETF to broaden its impact in terms of strengthening the productivity of businesses and entrepreneurs”, he said.
He noted that the platform will offer an impressive proposition and solutions that meet the expansive needs of the active segment.
The also said that it will help businesses  to raise productivity level by leveraging the skills of a wide range of freelancers while also creating new job opportunities for the teeming youth segment.
The Chief Executive Officer, TERAWORK, Femi Taiwo, who spoke during a break out of the summit themed, ‘The Future of Work: Gig Economy’, said the gig economy is the locus of shared prosperity in the 21st century.
Taiwo, also pointed out that  it can be expanded to drive economic growth if appropriate national policies are formulated and implemented.

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City Crime

PH City Marathon: Over 3000 Athletes To Run, Saturday

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Over, 3000 athletes are expected to take part in the 16 kilo meter Port Harcourt City Marathon Race this Saturday.
Take off point is scheduled be Forces Avenue, by Christ Church,  back of SPAR shopping Mall, in Port Harcourt, by 7:00am.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with  Tidesports, on Saturday, shortly after athletes collected their  numbers of participation , at Las Mall  Hotels and Resorts,  Rumukalagbor, the Chief organiser of the event, Goodluck Azunwena, said all arrangements had been concluded for the event on Saturday.
According to him, over 200 volunteers, have indicated interest to ensure that the race was successful, adding that various medical outfits, doctors, road safety officers are fully prepared, as health talks was also delivered to athletes.
“ The crowd was really overwhelming today. Honestly we are really impressed with the turnout, that means many athletes were waiting for such event.
As I speak, so many volunteers have indicated interest to work with us, private hospitals have also pledged to give out their ambulances and doctors to be on ground that day. We have also contacted the road safety, police and other security agents to ensure a hitch-free race” Azunwena said.
He advised athletes not to take the competition like a do or die affairs saying that they should exhibit what sports stand for, that is  unity, friendship and love.
Speaking,  one of the intending competitors, Jude Nwanaopara, a footballer, said he is optimistic to win the race, in spite of the fact that this would be his first time to compete in a  long distance race.
According to him, if he comes up top he will use the money to solve his personal problems.
“ I am optimistic that I will win the race being a sportsman, but I must say that this is my first time to enter such competition.
“I have self prophecy that I am going to win” Nwanaopara said.
Another competitor,   student, Victor Okoro, said he was inspired to go for the race following his walking skill.
He explained that he had been looking for  such opportunity to run marathon race to showcase his talent, saying that he is happy that what he was looking for will happen in Port Harcourt.
“ I have the belief that I will win because I have been walking from school to my house for three hours , which is more than that 16 kilometer,” Okoro said.

By: Tonye Orabere

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