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Terrorist Attacks Reporting: SERAP Urges Buhari to Block NBC Directive

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Bandits Anchor Borrowers’ Programme

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to use his leadership position to withdraw the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) policy banning journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims across the country.

In a notice dated July 7, 2021, NBC issued a directive asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop “glamourizing and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers” during their daily newspaper reviews.

The directive, titled Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution, was signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Mrs Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the new Director-General of the commission, Mr Balarabe Ilelah.

Reacting, SERAP called on Mr Buhari to urgently instruct Mr Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the directive it described as a “sweeping gag order.”

SERAP in a letter dated July 17, 2021, and signed by its deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The contents of the directive by the NBC to journalists and broadcast stations are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We would be grateful if the repressive directive is withdrawn within 24 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.”

The organization expressed “grave concern that the contents of the NBC directive would impermissibly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.”

SERAP said: “Reporting on the growing violence and killings in many parts of the country is a matter of public interest. The NBC directive to journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting these cases, coupled with the possibility of fines and other punishment, would have a disproportionate chilling effect on the work of those seeking to hold the government accountable to the public.”

“The broad definitions of what may constitute ‘too many details’, ‘glamorising, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ heighten concerns of overreach, confer far-reaching discretion on the government, and suggest that the NBC directive is more intrusive than necessary.”

“These words and phrases do not indicate precisely what kind of individual conduct would fall within their ambit.

“The vague and overbroad definitions of ‘too many details’, ‘glamorising, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ also raise concern that the NBC directive unduly interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and information, and is disproportionate to any purported legitimate governmental aim. Ill-defined and/or overly broad directives are open to arbitrary application and abuse.

“The use of these words and phrases by the NBC, given their opaque and ambiguous meaning, leaves open the possibility for application beyond unequivocal incitement to hatred, hostility or violence. Such words and phrases may function to interpret legitimate reporting by broadcast stations, journalists, and other Nigerians as unlawful.

“Exacerbating these concerns are growing restriction of civic space, the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and the attempts by your government to push for the amendment of the Nigeria Press Council Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act, to further suppress media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information.

“Allowing the media to freely carry out their duties is essential to building a secure society and leaving no one behind. Conversely, imposing impermissible restrictions on broadcast stations, journalists and other Nigerians undermines the security that builds a healthy and vibrant society.

“Article 19 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes the right to freedom of opinion without interference. Article 19 (2) establishes Nigeria’s obligations to respect and ensure this right, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and through any media of one’s choice.

“Under article 19 (3), restrictions on the right to freedom of expression must be ‘provided by law’, and necessary ‘for respect of the rights or reputations of others’ or ‘for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals’.

“Although article 19 (3) recognizes ‘national security’ as a legitimate aim, the Human Rights Council, the body charged with monitoring implementation of the Covenant, has stressed ‘the need to ensure that invocation of national security is not used unjustifiably or arbitrarily to restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression.’

“Since article 19 (2) promotes so clearly a right to information of all kinds, this indicates that your government bears the burden of justifying any restriction on reporting of cases of violence and killings, and withholding of such information as an exception to that right.

“Any restrictions should be applied strictly so that they do not put in jeopardy the right itself. The NBC directive to broadcast stations fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality.

“The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of restrictions such as those being imposed by the NBC, with the aim of ensuring that restrictions target a specific objective and do not unduly intrude upon the rights of targeted persons.

“The interference with the constitutional and legal duties of journalists and broadcast stations cannot be justified in the context of the right to information, as the NBC directive has not shown that their reporting would impose a specific risk of harm to a legitimate State interest that outweighs the public’s interest in such information.

“The NBC directive may also create an environment that unduly deters and penalizes broadcast stations and journalists, and the reporting of government wrongdoing more generally.

“The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom expression has concluded that national security considerations should be ‘limited in application to situations in which the interest of the whole nation is at stake, which would thereby exclude restrictions in the sole interest of a government, regime, or power group.’

“SERAP notes the collective interdependency of the compendium of constitutional and international human rights, which function to collectively complement and enhance the advancement of the security and rights of each individual in society.

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to ensure that Nigerian journalists and media can freely carry out their constitutional duties as contained in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“While your government has the obligation to maintain national security, this obligation is not set apart from the obligation to protect and ensure human rights. National security is a necessary and integral part of the right to security guaranteed to each person individually,” the letter said.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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FG Threatens CCECC Over Drawback in Rail Contract

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CCECC China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation

By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government has threatened to sanction the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for not meeting up with the agreement of providing 85 per cent of rail project costs in a move that could signify friction.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Mu’azu Sambo, at the inspection of the Lekki Deep Seaport on Saturday in Lagos.

According to Mr Sambo, the projects are the Kano-Kaduna and the Maiduguri-Port Harcourt rail lines.

“The CCECC has not brought anything to the table. I gave them a deadline which is October 30, if I don’t get that money on the ground, I know what to advise Mr President to do,” he said.

He expressed satisfaction with the Lekki Deep Seaport project, noting that the initiatives were to ensure the smooth evacuation of cargo at the port.

He said that for part-time, the road was being expanded, adding that the government was looking into it, and for medium-term, barges would take care of it.

“I am impressed and happy to be back here. This we know is the pride of all Nigerians, the first deep seaport in West Africa that will take the largest ship in the world has 16.5 meters deep, and will give us hundreds and thousands of jobs.

“Almost automated not fully but automated enough to make life easy for port operations.

“It is initiatives like this we want to encourage, that is why I did not hesitate when I came to the ministry and I saw a proposal of the Badagry Deep Seaport sitting on my table and took it immediately for approval.

“Also, the president is concerned about cargo evacuation at the port and does not want a repeat of the Apapa and TinCan port and so we cannot rely on the road alone which is not the best option.

“There is a need to sit down with stakeholders to see how to tackle this,” he said.

He pointed out that cargo evacuation was not just within the port but outside the port, as goods must reach the final destination.

“First of all, you save a lot of time at the port because of automation and modern technology and equipment.

“After the port what happens, it only makes sense when the goods get to the shipper or owner. And to do that, you need to move either by rail, water, or road,” he said.

Mr Sambo urged the management of the port to employ as many Nigerians as possible as this was the only way citizens could put food on the table for their families.

On his part, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, noted that the Lekki Deep Seaport was one of the first solutions to reducing traffic at Apapa and TinCan.

According to Mr Bello-Koko, the automation deployed at the port is commendable and fantastic as the processes will be free of human interference.

He said that the Apapa and TinCan port would still be viable, adding that what they had done was to create alternatives for importers and exporters as to where they would decide to do business.

“The operators of those ports should also up their game, and improve their speed in terms of cargo clearance or otherwise.

“Feasibility studies have shown that these ports will still be viable in future like 10, 15 years, the government can decide to turn some of these ports into a real estate, we have some of them in Europe,” Mr Bello-Koko said.

Mr Du Ruogang, the Managing Director, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Ltd. (Lekki Port), said that the port was 95 per cent completed, adding that they would meet the targeted time.

Mr Ruogang appreciated the NPA for deploying marine services such as tug, pilot, lines, boats and harbour master before the operations of the port.

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Verification of Bank of Agriculture Pensioners Begins

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Bank of Agriculture pensioners

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Pensioners of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) who missed the previous verification exercises under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) now have the opportunity to be verified.

This is because the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has fixed Monday, August 22 to Wednesday, August 24, 2022, for their verification.

In a statement signed by the management of the agency, it was stated that the verification exercise is also for pensioners of other organisations who could not appear for the previous ones.

In the statement, PTAD said Bank of Agriculture pensioners and others should appear at the Afficient Event Centre located on No. 74, Sultan Road, Nassarawa G.R.A. Kano State and at the PTAD Marquee, tucked in 22 Katsina-Ala Crescent, Maitama, Abuja between 8 am and 4 pm for the three days.

PTAD emphasised that pensioners with incomplete documents should obtain a Letter of Introduction from the management of their agencies and an affidavit for the loss of documents.

The documents they are expected to present for verification include the original and photocopies of their career documents, stamped and signed BVN with a picture, one month stamped and signed bank statement, NIN or any other valid identification.

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Ikeja Electric Signs Deal for Better Power Supply to Ayobo

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Ayobo Community Ikeja Electric

By Adedapo Adesanya

A tripartite interconnected mini-grid agreement has been signed by Ikeja Electric Plc, Enaro Energy Limited and the Ayobo community for the provision of reliable and uninterrupted electricity supply to Ishokan Phase 1 Estate, Mercy Land Estate, and Mercy Land Phase1 residents in Ayobo, Lagos State.

The initiative is in line with the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission’s (NERC) goal of ensuring there is a reliable and steady power supply across communities in the country through partnerships between distribution companies (DisCos) and independent power generators.

The agreement, which was signed on Wednesday at Ikeja Electric’s corporate headquarters in Alausa, Lagos, will rely on the interconnected mini-grid initiative of the power sector to provide the customers with an uninterrupted power supply.

Speaking on this, Mrs Seqinah Adewunmi, the Chief Finance Officer of Ikeja Electric, who represented the Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Folake Soetan, during the signing of the agreements, stated that the initiative was a landmark in the history of the power sector in the state.

She added that those communities will be the first to experience uninterrupted power supply via a blend of grid and off-grid generation and distribution of power.

According to her, “it will demonstrate the possibility that our customers can enjoy 24 hours power supply which is in line with the core mission of Ikeja Electric to be the provider of choice wherever power is consumed.”

She congratulated everyone that has been part of the process, revealing that the initiative will transform the ways in which electricity is being distributed in Nigeria.

She further stated that this initiative will set the pace for bigger things to happen as the plan is to expand to other communities within the Ikeja Electric Franchise area.

On his part, Mr Oluwaseun Smith, the Managing Director of Enaro Energy, expressed his appreciation that the project was finally coming to fruition, adding that the journey began about two and half years ago and was glad that all the efforts towards ensuring the signing of the contract were worth it.

He stated that Enaro Energy was committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure the success of the project.

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