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Twitter: SERAP Sues FG Over Directive to Broadcasters

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national broadcasting commission NBC

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the federal government and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, from using unlawful directive to prevent television and radio stations in the country from using their Twitter.

The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) had directed broadcast platforms to delete their Twitter accounts after the operations of the micro-blogging website were suspended for deleting a tweet of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the suit filed by SERAP, it said the directive to broadcasters was as a pretext to harass, intimidate, suspend or impose criminal punishment on journalists and broadcast stations simply for using social media platforms.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/496/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed and any other persons from censoring, regulating, licensing and controlling the social media operations and contents by broadcast stations, and activities of social media service providers in Nigeria.”

SERAP also wants “an order setting aside the directive by NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed asking broadcast stations to stop using Twitter, as it is unconstitutional, unlawful, inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

SERAP is arguing that “The government of President Buhari, the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have consistently made policies and given directives to crack down on media freedom, and the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information, and to impose crippling fines and other sanctions on broadcast stations without any legal basis whatsoever.”

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According to SERAP, “The court has an important role to play in the protection and preservation of the rule of law to ensure that persons and institutions operate within the defined ambit of constitutional and statutory limitations.”

SERAP is also arguing that “Where agencies of government are allowed to operate at large and at their whims and caprices in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be anarchy, licentiousness, authoritarianism and brigandage leading to the loss of the much cherished and constitutionally guaranteed freedom and liberty.”

According to SERAP: “By using the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code to stop broadcast stations from using Twitter without recourse to the court, the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have contravened the right to access to justice and fair hearing guaranteed under sections 6[1] & [6][b] and 36[1] of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, and articles 1 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Kehinde Oyewumi, and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The directive by the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to broadcasters to delete their Twitter accounts is unlawful, as it amounts to a fundamental breach of the principle of legality, the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom, and incompatible with the country’s international human rights obligations.

“SERAP and concerned Nigerians are entitled to the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom subject only to lawful restrictions. SERAP and concerned Nigerians frequently rely on the Twitter handles of many broadcast stations as sources of information for our activities in the promotion of transparency and accountability in the country.

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“Nigeria is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which impose legal obligations on the government of President Buhari to ensure that the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom are respected, promoted, protected, fulfilled, and not unlawfully restricted.

“The NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed have not shown any law breached by journalists, broadcast stations and media houses in Nigeria, and the government of President Buhari cannot use any disagreement with Twitter as a ploy to violate Nigerians’ rights and undermine their individual businesses and professional duties.

“The drafters of the Nigerian Constitution well knew the danger inherent in special executive and legislative acts which take away the life, liberty, or property of particular named persons. They intended to safeguard the people of this country from punishment without trial by duly constituted courts. These principles are so fundamental and must be respected.

“The directive to broadcast stations has seriously undermined the ability of Nigerians and other people in the country to freely express themselves in a democracy and undermined the ability of journalists, media houses, broadcast stations, and other people to freely carry out their professional duties.

“The Twitter accounts by broadcast stations and media houses are their own properties acquired upon privity of terms and conditions formulated by the Twitter Inc. and accepted by the stations and media houses.”

SERAP is also asking the Federal High Court for the following reliefs:

1. A declaration that the directive by NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to broadcast stations in Nigeria to deactivate their Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source of information gathering is unlawful, and amounts to a breach of the principles of legality and no punishment without law, and violation of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom guaranteed under sections 39 and 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 [as amended], Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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2. A declaration that the acts of the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed in relying on the National Broadcasting Act and the Nigeria Broadcasting Code to unilaterally direct broadcast stations to delete their Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter without recourse to the court amount to an infringement on sections 6[1] & [6][b], 36 and 44[1] of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], Articles 1 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

3. A declaration that the provision of section 2[1][r] of the National Broadcasting Act and sections 5.6.3, 5.11.3 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 36[1], 39, and 22 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility.

4. A declaration that NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed lack the power and authority to unlawfully impose penalties such as fines and other sanctions on any journalists and broadcast stations for using Twitter, and refusing/failing to deactivate their Twitter handles.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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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LG Polls: Ogun Imposes Movement Restriction

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Ogun LG Polls

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Ogun State Government has announced a statewide restriction of movement between 7 am and 4 pm on Saturday, July 24, 2021, to allow for the conduct of local government elections.

The State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Abdulwaheed Odusile, said the restriction was at the instance of the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC), which is conducting the councilorship and chairmanship elections in all the 236 wards across the 20 local government areas in the state.

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However, during the period of the restriction, voters will be free to move to their polling centres within their neighbourhood and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice.

The statement urged the electorate to be peaceful and avoid any act that could tarnish the hard-earned reputation of Ogun State as one of the most peaceful states in the country.

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This is coming after the Lagos State Government restricted movement between 8 am and 3 pm on Saturday for the same purpose.

Mr Gbenga Omotoso, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, had said in a statement Thursday that the restriction will enable the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to conduct hitch-free elections across the 57 local government areas and local council development areas in the state.

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“The restriction will facilitate the ease of movement of the electorate, election materials and LASIEC officials for the sanctity of the election, effective monitoring and enhanced security,” Mr Omotoso said.

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Everybody Needs PR—Yomi Badejo-Okusanya

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yomi badejo okusanya Everybody Needs PR

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The Group Managing Director of CMC Connect BCW, Mr Yomi Badejo-Okusanya (YBO), has emphasised the importance of Public Relations to organisations and individuals, saying everybody needs PR.

Mr Badejo-Okusanya, who doubles as the president of the African Public Relations Association (APPA), therefore, submitted that efforts should be made to have a better understanding of the profession, noting that PR is different from journalism but both work together to achieve great results.

He called on organisations, leaders, nations, policy and decision-makers to never overlook the value that PR brings to the table.

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“Many still bear in mind that PR is only about press releases and organising events whilst those with an understanding of the weight PR professionals pull as a result of their expertise have yielded great results for themselves,” he said.

Mr Badejo-Okusanya, while speaking on the first-ever World PR Day held on July 16, 2021, charged practitioners to push forward the agenda of PR in their daily dealings, stressing that “PR needs PR.”

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The APRA leader said the decision to set aside a day for PR and a unified global agenda was indeed a welcome development, stressing that, for the past 33 years, APPA has been able to gather PR Practitioners in Africa and recently across the globe under one roof to push forward the agenda of PR, the profession itself and discuss issues, trends and solutions to PR needs.

“I am delighted because this day speaks to the fact that our effort is yielding results in ways that will take the profession to the level where it belongs and better utilized by organisations, businesses, nations, brands, individuals, decision and policymakers.

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“Truth is, everybody needs PR. It is part of our daily lives and PR is about telling a compelling story! This call for unity on a day such as this will bring about great opportunities and collaborations that will be beneficial to our profession in the long run,” he said.

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MIIVOC to Train FIRS Officials on FOI Act

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FOI Act

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A group known as the Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) is taking steps to improve the knowledge of government officials in the implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act of 2011.

Already, it has concluded arrangements with the management of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) to train key personnel on the provisions and application of the law.

“Knowledge and capacity on the FOI Act are still very low in the country. There is a need for training and retraining of representatives of public institutions on the provisions and applications of the Act.

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“Poor understanding of the provisions of the FOI Act is one of the reasons for its poor implementation in Nigeria, particularly, among state actors,” the Executive Director of MIIVOC, Mr Walter Duru, said.

“Section 13 of the FOI Act makes it mandatory for public institutions to ensure the provision of appropriate training for its officials on the public’s right to access information or records held by the government or public institutions, as provided for in this Act,” he added.

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“Pursuant to section 13 of the FOI Act, the present management of FIRS approved the training for relevant officials of the Service on the FOI Act, with the view to ensuring increased compliance. The training is to be held on Thursday and Friday this week in Abuja,” Mr Duru also stated.

The MIIVOC chief, who also chairs the board of the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria called on other public institutions in the country to take steps towards enhancing the capacity of their officials through regular training and retraining on the provisions of the Act.

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He also called on Nigerian citizens to take advantage of the FOI Act to hold governments at all levels accountable.

Mr Duru, an Assistant Professor of Communication and Multimedia Design at the American University of Nigeria, Yola is the leader of the non-state actors drive on FOI Implementation in Nigeria – Chairman of Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria.

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