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Divorce Your Wife, Lose Your Home to Her

by Kyenpya Katkuk Esq

In the light of the recent event celebrating women on International Women’s day all over the world on the 8th of March as recognised by the United Nations, women are not only celebrated on how far they have come in the society, in politics and in the economy but it’s also a time for reflecting on the sexism that affects women, a time to raise awareness of continued inequality as well as the achievements of combating inequality.

 

There is no place in the world where women have the same opportunities as men and in so many countries the rights of women and their opportunities are limited by law. The belief that patriarchy is so entrenched in the Nigerian system and the fact that women are unable to exercise their rights have been an erroneous one especially by those ignorant on the rights provided under the law.

 

However, this issue of a woman not having rights to property due to cultural beliefs has been disproved of recent and it has been an uplifting moment in the lives of women in Oyo State, Nigeria.  In the recent decided case, by the presiding Justice Munta Abimbola , the courts held that “ a husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pend-ency of the marriage stands the risk of losing the house if he later divorces the woman who had children for him unless such woman of her own volition, leaves the matrimonial home”. The presiding Justice whilst ruling on the matter also emphasised on what is known as “palm tree justice”, which indicates that “it doesn’t matter in whose name the property stands or who pays what (on the property) and in what proportion as determination of such matters transcends all rights, legal or even equitable but simply what is fair and just ‘’ in the circumstances of the case.

The basis of this judgement was made under the provisions of the Married Woman’s Property Act 1882.  Furthermore, Section 17 Married Women’s Law of  Oyo State, Cap 83 and Laws of Oyo State 2000 gives a court the discretion as it thinks fit on the issues of title of possession to property. Section 18 Married Women Law of Oyo State also allows the court to treat property as joint property especially where it has to do with a matrimonial home.

 

Conclusively, it could be said that there is significant progress on the application of legal provisions and precedents regarding property rights that affect women inspite of the system of marriage laws (customary, Islamic and statutory marriage). The parties in the decided matter happen to be married under customary law and so this could mean that a woman is entitled to having an equal share of property in the event of divorce, regardless of whether she is married under customary law or statutory law.

 

This is also a good reflection of international instrument , the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), particularly Article 5 ,which refers to how women should not be confined to culturally defined constructions. It recognises that all human beings are equal and have equal rights and deserve equal respect for their human dignity.  Gender stereotypes should not deny women the right to be treated respectfully as an equal. Therefore, this landmark ruling is a significant in combating inequality as it affects women.

 

Kyenpya Katkuk is a lawyer with the Coalition Of Lawyers for Human Rights  (COLaHR).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nigeria proposed Non-Governmental Organisations’ Regulation Bill

By Sunday Adaji…Legal Officer, Lawyers Alert.

One of the most controversial Bills before the floor of the National Assembly (the law-making body of Nigeria) is the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Regulation Bill sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Umar Buba. The bill has been described in many quarters as the most audacious and dangerous bills to make its way into the legislature in recent times. It might be recalled that prior to its introduction, a similar NGO Bill was presented to the National Assembly and rejected. This time, the Bill has not only gained acceptance, it is already well on its way to being passed into law.

Provisions of the Bill

According to government, the bill is necessitated by an urgent desire to curb the excesses of shady NGOs which have not only fallen into a pattern of ripping-off donor agencies but are also further tarnishing Nigeria’s already well battered image in addition to quietly funding terror attacks in the country. Noble ideals for sure, so why the alarm?

Well for one thing, the bill proposes to establish a regulatory commission to be headed by an Executive Secretary who will be appointed by the President for a term of 5 years. There will be a 17-man Governing Board led by a Chairman, all of whom will also be appointed by the President. The organization will be imbued with powers to license all NGOs failing which they would not be allowed to function. Only this license will confer legality upon the entity, and not the Corporate Affairs Corporation, CAC,  as is currently the status quo. Said license will be reviewed every 2 years if legal status is to be maintained. The Board also has the power to withhold the issuance of this license as it deems fit without explanation.

For another thing, this regulatory commission will be domiciled within the Ministry of Interior and the Minister given the powers to direct the Board as he sees fit. All NGOs will be required to regularly submit financial reports and sources of funding to the board and also seek permission for how same should be expended and on what projects. Failure to comply will be considered a crime to be punished accordingly (up to 18 months in prison).

The Board will also have the responsibility of determining which foreign donors can be approached for assistance. NGOs will be expected not only to comply with these laws but also all national and foreign policies. This Board, having such wide-reaching powers, will however, itself, remain unaccountable. It will enjoy substantial immunity under law and no judgements can be enforced upon it save with the express permission of the Attorney General’s office.

These provisions can at best be described as draconian and at worst as inimical to the progress of the nation as a whole. Over time, as governance gradually weakened in Nigeria, NGOs, both international and local picked up the slack, filling in gaps that should ordinarily never have existed were government functioning as it should.

General Reactions

In an interview with Channels TV, (a leading television station in Nigeria) on September 23, 2017, Chris Akiri, a law practitioner, expressed shock at how the bill had insidiously made its way through the system, escaping the attention of people like himself and other CSO partners. In Akiri’s words, “This Bill which gives government the power to regulate NGOs is an over-government. Why must government come in to interfere when an NGO has its accountant and auditor? The Bill should not see the light of the day. It has a negative effect. It makes me to nearly vomit. Government is trying to government non-governmental organisations.”

Referring to some sections in the NGO Bill, Akiri explained that by empowering a commission known as NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS REGULATION COMMISSION OF NIGERIA to regulate the activities of NGOs, the government would essentially be usurping and or replicating the power of the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) to incorporate, monitor and regulate the activities of NGOs.

Another personality interviewed alongside Akiri, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, the former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was in agreement with Barrister Akiri. In his words, “I was invited to moderate in a discourse on the NGO Bill, but they concluded that I would not be fair-minded. They therefore used bodyguards to bar me from attending the meeting. Why should you have a discourse and bring in bodyguards?”

Expressing further his displeasure over the NGO Bill, Odinkalu said: “It is certifiable nonsense to label NGOs as ‘certified terrorists’. NGOs are doing great work for citizens. Churches and mosques will also be affected by the NGO Bill. Churches and mosques are the earliest NGOs in the world. Presently, we have so many laws that regulate NGOs. We have CAMA (Companies and Allied Matters Act), EFCC (Economic and Financial Crime Commission) Act, etc. Let us implement these laws properly.” Odinkalu also questioned the wisdom in enacting laws expropriating other agencies deeming them counter-productive in the long run.

Pointing out the political undertone behind the National Assembly’s plan to pass the NGO Bill into law, Odinkalu cited the case of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who, in a bid to make himself life president, decertified NGOs that opposed his decision.

Further interrogated about NGOs ability to regulate themselves without government interference, Odinakalu clarified his position thus: “I am not an advocate for NGOs. What I am saying is that we have so many laws that regulate NGOs. We should apply these laws properly.”

Lawyers Alert’s Stance

LAWYERS ALERT does not have a contrary view from those indicated above. We do agree and reiterate the fact that there are already agencies whose functions include monitoring the activities of NGOs. These agencies should be empowered to carry out their roles optimally and regulate NGOs while checking the excesses or illegalities perpetuated either by fake or spurious entities. Government agencies like CAC, EFCC and the FIRS (Federal Inland Revenue Service) are just some of the organizations charged with the task of monitoring and regulating NGO activity in the country.

Certainly, all sectors have challenges and bad eggs and the NGO sector is not immune to this. However, while readily admitting this problem, LA believes that where it is necessary to enquire and investigate the activities of NGOs, the government can do so within the ambit of the existing laws and the agencies concerned. If the government has any grouse with NGOs, it certainly is not as a result of a paucity of laws regulating them. The obvious gap rather, is that government has not fully maximised these laws to prevent criminal elements from taking advantage of loopholes in the system to exploit donor agencies.

CAMA for instance, empowers the CAC to enquire, investigate and prosecute businesses, companies and incorporated Trustees (NGOs) on allegations of any offence. Similarly, EFCC is empowered to inquire, investigate and prosecute any individual, business, company and or NGO regarding any alleged financial crimes or offences. So also, is the FIRS. All the government needs to is to empower these agencies in such a way that their bite is as bad as their bark.

If those already in existence are being under-utilised by government, is there any guarantee that any new law will be better implemented?

Consequences

Should the NGO Bill eventually be enacted, what would be its impact on NGOs in Nigeria?

LAWYERS ALERT’s answer to this question is twofold:

  1. In the absence of any political undertone behind the National Assembly’s plan to pass the NGO Bill into law, the Bill might not make an impact. This is because, it is not the number of laws that matter but rather their effectiveness. What is crucial is the implementation of the already existing laws, not replicating them.
  2. If, on the other hand, there are political undertones behind the NGO Bill, as some have suggested, then the Bill will certainly have a negative impact on NGOs, especially human rights organisations in Nigeria. For instance, a party in power can capitalise on the provisos in the Bill to decertify NGOs that oppose its policies and activities. We all know that no genuine NGO will keep mute when a government in power infringes on the fundamental human rights of citizens.

Now, the Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission (the body empowered by the NGO Bill to regulate national and international NGOs) is conferred with the function of registering and maintaining the register of NGOs. It also has power to deregister any NGO. In fact, section 13 subsection (4) of the Bill states: “An organisation that is not registered under the Act cannot operate in the country nor benefit from the facilities made available by the government to organisations which are registered under this Act, but in special cases, the Minister, on the advice of the Board, may make concessions under conditions of emergency.” By this proviso, it is easy for a government in power to decertify and silence any NGO that opposes its activities.

Conclusion

LAWYERS ALERT is of the view that since there are already laws and agencies that are empowered to regulate NGOs, it is of no use enacting the NGO Regulatory Bill. It is not the number of laws a country has that matters but the implementation of same. Thousands of laws do not translate to implementation. If government cannot apply existing laws to regulate NGOs, it would still have difficulty doing so with any new laws.

On the other hand, if the NGO Bill must be passed into law, many of its provisos should be reviewed and amended. And in doing so, members of the public and NGOs in Nigeria, as well as other stakeholders, should be involved in the discourse on the NGO Bill. We believe this will be the case once the bill is scheduled for public hearing as reiterated by the Chairman of the House Committee on CSOs and Development Partners, Mr. Akpatason.

We hope that at the end of the day, the decision that will be taken will be one that will encourage the activities and growth of NGOs in Nigeria, considering the humanitarian services they are rendering to citizens.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Human Rights, Uncategorized

 

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Fears linger around Buhari’s commitment to a free press

Journalists jailed by Muhammadu Buhari’s regime in the 1980s are ready to forgive, but others are skeptical

When Muhammadu Buhari hit the campaign trail in Nigeria earlier this year, he got help from an unlikely source: Tunde Thompson. As a reporter for the Lagos-based Guardian newspaper in the 1980s, Thompson was one of two journalists jailed under the repressive military regime led by Buhari.

Thompson was a casualty of Decree 4, a draconian piece of legislation that allowed the government to imprison any journalist who embarrassed the country’s military leaders — a nebulous charge that was frequently invoked to muzzle the press and civil society during the 18 months of Buhari’s rule. After Thompson and his colleague Nduka Irabor published a report on diplomatic postings that involved top military brass, the two were arrested in February 1984 and held for eight months.

Three decades after his ordeal, Thompson said that “time is a healer of certain wounds,” and he came out in support of Buhari in his campaign against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

“People should learn to be charitable. They should learn to forgive and let bygones be bygones,” Thompson told the online Premium Times newspaper. Saying that Buhari wasn’t personally responsible for his 1984 arrest, Thompson added that he “bear[s] no grudge against him.”

Buhari defeated Jonathan in the March 28 election, and as Nigeria prepares to peacefully hand power to a man who 30 years ago seized it by force, forgiveness is on the minds of many. Even those who suffered during Buhari’s brief reign hope that the notoriously hard-nosed disciplinarian can stem the corruption and the growing tide of insecurity that undid his predecessor. For journalists too, there is guarded optimism that Buhari, now a professed “converted democrat,” has turned over a new leaf in his transition from military strongman to civilian leader.

“What happened during the military regime of Gen. Buhari cannot happen in [a] democracy,” said Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. “I think we are going to see a different Buhari.”

Skeptics question how long the commitment to democracy will last for Muhammadu Buhari, a former military man who showed little tolerance for dissenting voices the last time he was in power.

Buhari’s ascent to power in December 1983 ushered in a period of crackdowns on civil liberties and freedom of speech, with the arrests of Thompson and Irabor part of a broader effort to muzzle the country’s once vibrant press. Journalists and editors were regularly detained on trivial offenses, and self-censorship became the norm, with newspapers fearful of publishing stories that could incur stiff fines and jail sentences. By the time Buhari was overthrown in a coup in August 1985, a commentator in The Concord newspaper reported that the local press was in a “comatose condition.”

Since the return of democracy in 1999, though, the industry has managed to make slow but steady gains. With dozens of publicly and privately owned newspapers and TV and radio stations, Nigeria now has one of the most diverse and boisterous media climates on the continent, although the industry faces a rash of challenges. Buhari tried to offer assurances on the campaign trail that he would uphold those freedoms once in office, promising “to promote the consolidation of democracy … by guaranteeing that the media’s freedom is not compromised in any way.”

“Without a robust and thriving media, the masses would have no voice,” he added.

Yet skeptics question how long the commitment to democracy will last for Buhari, a former military man who showed little tolerance for dissenting voices the last time he was in power.

“You think that you’re going to have all the time to continue [the media’s] goodwill,” said Jahman Anikulapo, a former editor of The Sunday Guardian, referring to the honeymoon period Buhari is enjoying. But if he struggles to deliver on some of his campaign promises, “there’s going to be a lot of criticism. And that’s when you will see how democratic he is.”

Nigeria is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists last year ranked the nation 12th on its list of deadliest countries, citing “a steady rise in unsolved murders in recent years.” It was the second year in a row that Nigeria appeared on the list, with group noting that the country’s “press freedom record is on the decline.”

The broader unrest in Nigeria has taken its toll on journalists, who struggle to operate freely in much of the country. With the continuing threat posed by armed group Boko Haram in the north, kidnappings in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, rampant criminal and politically sponsored violence and a general culture of impunity, Dapo Olorunyomi, the editor-in-chief of The Premium Times, suggested in a 2013 op-ed that this is “perhaps the most dismal period” for the profession in its 150-year history in the region.

The run-up to this year’s presidential polls was especially troubling, according to the Lagos-based International Press Centre, which documented 32 attacks against journalists in Nigeria from November to February. On Monday the military released two Al Jazeera journalists it had detained for nearly two weeks, underscoring the IPC’s findings that “police and other security agencies have continued to be the principal perpetrators of attacks,” a fact that it called “particularly alarming.”

Citing the broader culture of impunity in Nigeria, Garba noted, “We are yet to see a serious case against either the state security forces or individuals that have committed crimes against journalists.”

Still, within the industry, there is hope that Buhari “has a chance of cleaning up” that culture, according to Femi Adesina, the president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Despite his heavy-handed time as a military ruler, Buhari entered the campaign season with a no-nonsense reputation that enamored him to the many voters who had grown weary of the rampant corruption and waywardness of the Jonathan era. Yet Adesina cautioned it “remains to be seen” how Buhari would manage to push reform while abiding by the country’s democratic institutions, as opposed to ruling by decree, as he did 30 years ago.

Perhaps the greater threat to Nigeria’s press stems from powerful controlling interests in a country where, according to Mohammed Garba, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, roughly 70 percent of media companies are owned by politicians.

Perhaps the greater threat to Nigeria’s press stems from powerful controlling interests in a country where, according to Garba, roughly 70 percent of media companies are owned by politicians and the dire financial straits of most organizations leave them particularly susceptible to outside influence.

The issue was brought to bear during the bitterly divisive campaign season, when the press was routinely criticized for failing to maintain its objectivity, publishing slanderous attack ads and promoting hate speech. Last month a Lagos high court issued an injunction against several broadcasters — including the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority — for running a negative and specious documentary against Buhari’s running mate, Yemi Osinbajo. The broadcasters reportedly received roughly $50 million to produce and air the program, which was bankrolled by Jonathan’s ruling party.

The lapses in ethics throughout the campaign season, said Anikulapo, reflect the broader struggle by media in recent years to live up to their mandate as watchdog in a country hobbled by corruption. He pointed to the Freedom of Information Act, signed into law by Jonathan in 2011, which mandates that institutions receiving public money disclose their operations and spending and that citizens have the right to access information about those groups’ activities. At the time, the act was hailed as a victory for transparency and accountability, but it has only sporadically been used by the press since, and Ankikulapo cited it as an example of the media’s failure to “engage with power … and raise the necessary questions,” even with legal tools at its disposal.

That failure, he said, raises doubts about whether the media can “wake up from that slumber all of a sudden and start to tackle a former general.”

“Now that you’ve dined with the devil,” he asked, “how do you extricate yourself from it?”

 
 

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CYBERCRIME BILL : RECREATING AN ORWELLIAN NIGERIA?

On Tuesday 24 February 2015, a bill, Cybercrime Bill passed second reading at the House of Representative – the lower legislative arm in Nigeria. The Bill which seeks to intercept and monitor personal communications empowers security agents to intercept, monitor, and record electronic communications between individuals and seize usage data from Internet Services Providers (ISPs) and mobile networks. It further gives power to security agency to order telecommunication companies to conduct surveillance on individuals and release user data to authorities. Now, personal emails, text messages, voicemail, and multimedia message can all be intercepted, recorded and monitored under the guise of facilitating criminal investigation. And there are penalties attached to an infraction of the provisions. First, a person is liable to not less than 1 year jail term or a fine of N2 million; “guilty” of using public electronic communication network to send a message deemed “indecent, obscene, menacing, or false”; which causes annoyance, inconvenience, or anxiety. Second, the Bill prescribes death penalty for a person who “commits crime” against critical national information infrastructure – computer systems, networks and information infrastructure vital to national security of Nigeria, or the economy and social well-being of its citizens. However, where the offense results in grievous bodily injury; the offenders shall be liable to imprisonment for a minimum term of 15 years. And a life jail term awaits any person that accesses or causes to be accused any computer system or network for the purpose of terrorism. Now, here’s our fear and source of agitation.

Fundamentally, the Bill is a blatant breach of and slap on the face of constitutionally protected right to privacy of citizens communication which lies at the very heart of human dignity. If the Bill is passed into Law, it would officially give power to our power-drunken security agency to snoop on us, monitor our communications, and possibly blackmail the citizenry with recording of our private activities.

Closely linked to this limb is the violation of the right of the citizenry to free expression. Now, a situation where a person can be jailed for not less than 1 year of fined N2 million for sending, tweeting, posting, and saying obscene, annoying, false or inconvenient things through electronic communication means is nothing short of draconian. It returns us to the Orwellian milieu where the State as Big Brother knows, watches and monitors every thought and opinion we hold and propagate. Let it be known that free expression includes the right to hold and impart opinion and information whether true or false, decent or obscene, secular or religious etc without fear. And to add, a restriction of free expression stifles creativity and the thriving of democratic culture; as well as degrades human dignity and freedom. To be human is to be freely expressive; to hold and express personal worldview which must not always conform to others and the state. We will all lose our humanity and democracy when we are afraid to air our mind especially on the cyberspace which is a product of human creativity fertilized on the soil of free thought and ingenuity.

Finally, for want of space we’ll say that government cannot be trusted with unbridled access to peoples’ personal data and private communications on the wide and ambiguous grounds of national security. We know that since the days of Wikileaks and Snowden, citizens have become a lot more aware of the massive surveillance and invasion of privacy of net citizens; thus, we’ll stand up to any attempt to gag our internet freedom for whatever reason because if we give them a yard, they’ll go a mile!

  • Elvis-Wura Towolawi.
 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Human Rights, Internet Governance

 

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POLICE BRUTALITY ON ILAJE STUDENTS – QUESTIONS FOR DEMOCRACY

By Elvis-Wura Towolawi

One of the hallmarks and pillars; nay, benefits of a virile democracy is the leverage given to the citizenry to express their dissatisfaction and disapproval of government’s action and policies either through the Ballot or Protest.  And the latter is most cherished as it is a branch of Free Expression – a right protected in every democracy. All’s lost in a supposed democracy when a people’s mouths in that entity are muffled in apartheid-styled manner by security agents from expressing dissent. Sadly, such a situation comes with a price – alternative expression of dissent through the bullet! Consequently, this piece of protest writing is done in solidarity with Ilaje students who had their legitimate peaceful protest against a 6-year ‘blackout’ in Igbokoda, the headquarter of Ilaje Local Government Area, Ondo State, Nigeria; broken up with unlawful and brutal force by policemen stationed in Igbokoda; resulting in bodily injury and arrest of some of the students. Here are the facts.

Reports have it that on Wednesday, 10th of December, 2014 a company of students under the umbrella of National Association of Ilaje Students (NAIS) embarked on a peaceful protest and marched on Igbokoda in Ilaje Local Government Area, Ondo state; to decry and declaim the lack of power-supply in Igbokoda, an oil-producing community in Ondo for over 6-years. The band of protesters marched on OSOPADEC and NDDC office where they were attacked by policemen attached to the Igbokoda Police Station. They were shot at and Ibukun Obayelu, a student of University of Benin was hit on the thigh by a bullet. He collapsed and was ferried to the general hospital, fatally injured. And the police further arrested Victor Adeya (President of the Association), a 300-level Quantity surveying undergraduate of University of Lagos; Busayo Ebiniyi of Kwara Polytechnic, and Olanrewaju Oretan, a Biochemistry student of University of Port-Harcourt. [See: the Nation, Thursday, December 11, 2014)

Now, what is important to note is that the student association obtained police permit before it carried out the protest.

Ilaje community is the resource jewel of Ondo state, Nigeria for it is the oil-spitting goose that lays the golden egg which enables Ondo state to be part of the Niger-Delta; thereby qualifying her to earn the additional 13% Derivation Fund from the Federal Government of Nigeria, in addition to her monthly allocation. It smacks of unconscionable socio-economic injustice and robbery to leave Igbokoda in ‘darkness’; without the light on for over 6-years. And to add salt to injury, when the enlightened fragment demand explanation form the authorities that manage the oil-wealth – they are pounced upon, harassed, shot at and dehumanized like mere outcast and criminal. When peaceful protest is made impossible by the high handedness of government agencies, it certainly makes violent protest and militancy attractive and inevitable. What is the essence of having the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Ondo when it cannot provide at least an hour of electricity for the Ilajes? Is the Amnesty Program just to enrich and empower some few warlords while the communities that bear the real brunt of oil exploration are left to wallow in abject poverty and underdevelopment?

The Ilaje students protest is just an inkling and expression of the general disaffection of the people with the untoward direction of development programs in oil-rich communities in the Niger-Delta. If our resources cannot make life better for us all, then it is in the process of becoming a curse and burden to us all! Let there be light in Ilaje! Let the dignity and rights of the students breached be redressed! #BringBackOurLight in Igbokoda, Ilaje!

 

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PARIS ATTACK: A BLOW TO FREE EXPRESSION.

By Elvis-wura Towolawi

The recent attack in Paris on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebd by some extremist elements has left 12 people dead. Among the dead are: Stephane Charbonnier, Editor-in-chief, 3 cartoonists, and 2 police officers.

Now, the thrust of this blog-piece is to condemn the attack as deplorable, needless and primitive, as well as inimical to free expression which forms the bedrock of every virile democracy.

Fundamentally, the attack on the magazine’s editorial team and cartoonists is a cowardly bid to muzzle the press, albeit, Charlie Hebd,  which is a unique ‘free speech paper’ given its unconventional way of publishing. In fact, the offices of the magazine were firebombed in 2011 following a cartoon poking jokes at Prophet Muhammad. The attack then was done to subject it to fear from expressing itself. Such extremism, and of whatever colour and form is what Charlie Hebd satirizes in order to build a more tolerable and freer society.

Democracy cannot survive and thrive without free expression. The right to free expression as enshrined, protected, and promoted under human rights regime all over the world includes the right to hold and express views including opinions that “offend, shock, or disturb”. If it is found defamatory – file a suit against the publisher! Embarking on such heinous course is a mark that the word got home!

Sadly, it appears journalists and other free speech advocates are fast becoming endangered species in a supposed free world. Sometime in April 2012, ThisDay office in Abuja, Nigeria was bombed by Islamic terrorist sect, Boko Haram for publishing against them; and the Kaduna offices of ThisDay and Sun Daily papers suffered the same fate. It is high time the free world rose to confront this growing tyranny against free expression; for without free expression, democracy will be like a house built on sand.

Je Suis Charlie!

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Governanace, Human Rights

 

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SOCIAL MEDIA, FREE SPEECH & SOCIAL CHANGE

……Elvis-Wura Towolawi

The long awaited revolution—of the mind, not of arms has begun; and its force is mobile, borne on the jet of technology; executing swift judgments with far-reaching effect on policies and anti-people attitude. This revolution was mothered by the Social Media: a tool created for social networking and marketing; but yup, the Social Media has metamorphosed into a Court of Opinion, shaping the course of history, mentality and social behavior. Popular among the Social Media platform are: Face Book, Google +, Twitter, Skype, Whatsapp, You Tube etc. If there’s any place the Social Media should be utilized optimally, it is a Society where power oppresses than uplifts; where social goods are unevenly distributed; and peoples’ voices are muffled for parochial political interest. Our thoughts can be buttressed with a few incidents illustrating the viral impact of the Social Media on governance and society.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It’s safe to begin with the Arab Spring- a revolution that swept through the Arab World from 2011 till date. The revolution can be tagged ‘ a Social Media Revolution’ as protests leading to major events ( even civil wars) were facilitated by the ubiquity and mass strength of Social Media in organizing people and moulding opinion, giving information about moves and decisions. Without sounding vaunting, the Arab World owes its bitter-sweet revolutionary experiences in recent years to the Social Media. From Egypt to Syria, the Social Media fuelled the embers of discontent by giving vent to bottled-up feeling of dissatisfaction. Yes, the Arab Awakening like some other known revolution may have been hijacked and distorted by power-brokers and religious bigots; yet, it does not kill the fact that the people had their opportunity to say no to dictatorship, hard life and oppression. Many  thanks to the Social Media.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Let’s come home to Nigeria. Foremost is the ‘ Go-and-Die-Widow’ saga that occurred in Benin City, Edo state December 2012. A fruit-vending widow was ordered to ‘go and die’ for flouting anti-street hawking law by the Governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomole who was on an implementation tour of the law. Some days later, the Governor came apologizing to the widow, armed with a largesse and an appointment letter. Why the change of attitude? The Social Media verdict! Now, a video of the show down between the widow and the Governor went viral on the social network arousing anger and venom by the people who regarded the act as a show of insensitivity to the dregs of the Earth; thus leading to the Governor’s change of heart and the apology. Even traditional media could hardly bend men in power compared to the weight of the Social Media. There judgment is instant! To be fair, one must commend the humility of the Governor for accepting his wrongful overreaction and for bringing the widow out of the dungeon of poverty and struggle. Imagine what would have happened if there was no Social Media.                                                                                                                                                                      However, one would pause and caution here that the Social Media as strong and useful as it is could become a den of scammers, con-stars and evil propagandists and spin-less apologists; fleecing people and tarnishing peoples’ image considered ‘anti-government’. The unfortunate murder of Cynthia Osogkwu in FESTAC, Lagos in 2012 by her ‘online friends’ and puerile mud-slinging campaign against Victoria Ohaeri, a social activist is worth highlighting in red. We’d advise tact and ‘wisdom’ in using the Social Media; users shouldn’t disclose sensitive personal information online for there are many predators on line seeking to prey on unwary persons. Yet, the odds are tilted towards the Social Media. It can best be described as a drop in an ocean.                                                                                                                                            But a situation where the National Assembly tries to legislate away a people’s right to free expression on the premise of quelling inciting expression against the State on the Social Media is totally unacceptable. The Cyber Crime Bill which proposes to monitor internet and phone interaction is anathema to the building of a civil and democratic state.  People have the right to express support, disagreement and even dissent on the Social Media within bounds of reasonable conduct and civility. Any attempt to gag the peoples’ discourse in a bid to preserve Government is regarded as an internet dictatorship which could eventually lead to an overflow of unexpressed views voiced in other means, legitimate or illegitimate. It’s far better to let the people interact and express themselves without fear in a democracy than throw them back to the ‘ iron-jackboot age’ of police states when to express dissent is to be seen as anti-government and be treated as national traitors. The Social Media is here to stay because it gives voice and expression to the people; take away the peoples’ voice, take away democracy!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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