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.”
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 & [b] and 36 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.
“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.
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 & [b], 36 and 44 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[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, 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.
IPOB Threatens to Disrupt Anambra Governorship Election
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has said the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State may not hold as long as the federal government doesn’t acquiesce to the “unconditional release” of their leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu.
IPOB in a statement signed by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr Emma Powerful, on Saturday gave the federal government up till November 4 to release Mr Kanu unconditionally, or it would commence a one-week lockdown in the region effective November 5, a day before the Anambra governorship election.
The group explained that the one-week sit-at-home order, which would end on November 10, was to press for the release of their leader whom the central government was prepared to keep in incarceration ad infinitum for nothing.
“Following the adjournment of our great leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s court case to 10th of November 2021 by the Federal High Court, Abuja, we, the great movement and family of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), wish to inform Biafrans, friends of Biafra and lovers of freedom that IPOB will lock down Biafra land from November 5 to 10 except Sunday, November 7, a day our people worship the Almighty God, Chukwu Okike Abiama, if the Nigeria government fails to release our leader unconditionally before November 4, 2021.
“Our leader, Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu must be released unconditionally on or before November 4, 2021, because he has not committed any offence known to any law. Failure to release our leader on or before November 4, 2021, our one-week sit-at-home begins on November 5, 2021, till November 10,” the group said.
The statement continued: “Although we quite understand the pains and adverse effects of this option on our people, we are compelled to take it to achieve a better purpose in the collective interest of Biafrans. We have taken time to analyse what transpired on October 21 when our leader was arraigned in court and discovered that the Federal Government is not sincere, and only wants to humiliate him and keep him perpetually in DSS custody to rot there.
“We all saw how lawyers, journalists, Igbo delegates and respected traditional rulers and other people who came from all around the world to witness his court case were restricted and denied access into the court premises by security agents who kept them outside under the scorching heat of the sun. What a humiliation and wickedness!
“We cannot accept that anymore. We can never allow our leader Onyendu Kanu to be tried secretly, and we can never also allow him to be tried under Sharia law under any guise. Nigeria must follow international laws in handling our leader.
“Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is in a DSS dungeon today because of his passion for Biafra’s independence, and we must sacrifice all we can to ensure that he regains his freedom. He has sacrificed so much for us all, so we must be prepared to sacrifice a little for him.
“Unless the Federal Government releases him unconditionally before November 4, we shall sacrifice one week for him as a warning protest to convey to our oppressors, that Nnamdi Kanu represents over 70 million Biafrans. He is innocent of all the charges preferred against him. As long as he is in detention, our individual businesses do not matter so much because he is suffering for us all and we can’t abandon him.”
The group said that despite inconveniences that the development may cause the people, this action is a “necessary sacrifice we need to make until we have our full independence. Nobody resident in Biafra land is expected to flout this directive as doing so amounts to challenging the will of the people on the Biafra project.
“This one-week sit-at-home is also to let our oppressors understand that we are not going to tolerate any plan to torment or abandon our leader in the DSS’ custody through frivolous court adjournment. Any plans to subject him to trauma in detention through long adjournment while real terrorists and mass murderers are having fun across the country cannot fly.
“Nnamdi Kanu must be freed because he committed no crime. Asking for a referendum so that Biafrans will decide whether or not they want to continue as part of Nigeria is no crime. He should not suffer for seeking justice for his people.
“We have been enslaved and caged enough by the Fulani-controlled Federal Government of Nigeria and its allies. If we shut down Biafra land just for one week to secure our permanent freedom, it is worth the sacrifice. Everybody should brace up for this sacrifice.”
Despite the threat, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already issued guidelines for the exercise to go as planned with the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting set to meet on Monday, October 25 on the way forward for the Anambra election.
Heifer Gathers Stakeholders to Discuss Youth Empowerment
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
Agribusiness firm, Heifer Nigeria, in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), will hold a youth empowerment programme on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.
The event is mainly to gather stakeholders in the agriculture sector to discuss how youth could be given the necessary support to succeed in the industry.
The program, which is themed Youth and Technology: The Future of Africa’s Agriculture, will also serve as an avenue for key players to examine the various roles of youth and technology in the transformation and future of Nigeria’s agriculture.
It will be held for two days at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, and is in line with the 27th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) tagged Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now.
Speaking on the scheduled event, the Country Director, Heifer Nigeria, Mr Rufus Idris, noted that agriculture in Africa greatly relies on the shoulder of the youths which is in need of enhanced innovation to allow for a sustainable farming system among Africans.
“Heifer International is committed to supporting a business ecosystem that enables youths to drive innovation in the sector, growing their incomes through sustainable and scalable food, and farming practices.
“Leveraging technology and modern practices will create a pathway for Nigeria to increase productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector to curb food insecurity and poverty,” he averred.
According to the company, agriculture already accounts for about 35 per cent of employment in Nigeria, making the sector mature enough for innovation to become a major domestic employer.
Hence, the program will be an interactive session where youth innovators, incubators, farmers and agribusinesses, government agencies, and investors will converge to come up with innovative solutions with the potential of scaling Nigeria’s agricultural sector and strengthening food security across the nation.
Fashola Tasks States to Prioritize Housing Challenges
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has called on state governments to renew their commitment to housing development in order to increase access to affordable housing to the citizenry.
Mr Fashola made the call in his keynote address at the meeting of the States’ Commissioners responsible for housing matters during the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development held in Lagos State.
Speaking at the event themed Housing Development as a Catalyst for Job Creation, Social Inclusion and Economic Development, he explained that the inequality among the nations and people can be reduced drastically if the housing need of the poor is considerably addressed in the states.
“These are some of the reasons why I seek to persuade all of you to go back to your states to persuade your Governors to re-commit to housing development.
“I said re-commit because I am aware that many states are doing something, but you will agree that there is a scope to improve and scale-up.
“One reason why this will require an All of Government Action is the fact that land is a critical component of capital formation and it is controlled by the states.
“I am persuaded that appropriate, targeted and purposeful use of lands, such as for the development of housing by the states and private sector, will unleash prosperity in all states that aggregate to national prosperity,” Mr Fashola explained.
The Minister gave an example of Lagos State days of Lateef Jakande and added that the present Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu remained an example of what state governments could do to deepen housing supply and reap the benefits that come with it.
Mr Fashola stated that land and housing was a sub-national matter of jurisdictions, pointing out that what the states do to facilitate the processing of land titles, documentation, Certificate of Occupancy and other Geographic Information Services (GIS) details would go a long way in facilitating easy housing delivery.
He informed the meeting that the federal government was undertaking a National Housing Programme in 34 states aggregating to about 5,000 housing units, and trying to complete an inherited ministerial pilot housing scheme across the states which had a little over 6,000 units.
Mr Fashola said the decisions to recommit to housing development by state governments would facilitate the creation of a variety of jobs because the services of various professionals in the built industry such as town planners, architects would be required.
”Artisans like masons, plumbers, carpenters and food vendors will not be left out of the value chain of prosperity resulting from economic development.
“When construction actively starts, the economic explosion happens, supplies of sand, cement, reinforcements, roofing, plumbing, painting, and other components get to work.
“This drives a critical business in all our states, the micro small and medium enterprises who make or supply these building components,“ he said.
In the same vein, he explained that the Federal Housing Authority and Federal Mortgage Bank are also intervening as federal agencies in respective housing development directly through cooperative societies and the provision of development loans and mortgage loans.
In his remarks, Governor Sanwo-Olu, while assuring participants at the council of implementing the recommendations of the meeting, disclosed that the state had begun to implement the commendations agreed on at the 9th National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development.
On making land available for building by providing lands to build a mini-city at Imota in Ikorodu Division of Lagos State.
He said the state would develop about 3,500 housing units of 2 and 3 bedrooms in phases for civil servants and those in the informal sector, who fall within the category of low-income earners and to be acquired at a single-digit interest rate mortgage plan that could span a period of 15 years.
He added that his administration was determined to develop decent homes within the states as well as meet the housing needs of the citizens irrespective of their location.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, who said that homeownership was a vital tool for taking people out of poverty, assured the council that Lagos State would collaborate with the private sector to adopt the monthly rent payment as proposed by the Minister of Works and Housing.
In his vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary, FMWH, Mr Babangida Hussaini, commended the excellent leadership of the works and housing sectors.
He also noted the commitment of council members to the 10th Meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development and urged them to go back and implement the council resolutions.
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