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Online publishers condemn anti-social media bill Says Saraki Led Senate is threat to Democracy

Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN) has condemned the Social Media Bill being proposed by the Nigerian Senate. The bill which is titled “Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith,” seeks to gag online media by imposing a two year jail term for abusive statement.


The association in a statement issued on Monday by  Olufemi Awoyemi, titled  “A Public Statement on the “Frivolous Petitions Bill” A Public Statement denouncing the “Frivolous Petitions Bill” said,

“We, the entire board and members of Online Publishers Association condemn in the strongest terms the motivation, process and purpose of the “Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith” which passed its 2nd reading at the Senate in a record eight (8) days; and is now set for a public hearing subsequent to its being referred by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; to the committees on ICT, Judiciary led by the Ethics and Privileges Committee.”

“We align with the Nigerian public in describing this action by the Nigerian Senate as pure idleness, and an abandonment of the electoral mandate to focus on laws for good governance to deliver increased welfare for the people. The Senate is seeking instead to restrict the scope of human freedoms, growth of new platforms of social interaction and public accountability.”

“Having engaged and consulted widely with stakeholders in the country, including members of the National Assembly and the ruling government; we offer our support to the “Public March” being organized by ‘The Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria; on the National Assembly and across the nation on Tuesday, December 08, 2015; amongst the many other lawful steps to be taken individually and severally to not only stop this unjust law but to hold the lawmakers more accountable.”

“The proposed bill immediately reminds the general public of the infamous Decree 4 of 1984 passed under military rule; one that took away our freedoms. The continuous attempt at gagging members of the public was again re-enacted in 2011, when the Senate attempted to pass a bill by another APC Senator; for which ironically, the current members of the Senate stepped down after extensive public outcry. This appears therefore to be an on-going project in the Nigerian Senate.”

“The planned action by the Senator Bukola Saraki led Senate seeks to negate Chapter IV section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution which provides that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. Equally, it seeks to set aside the UN Charter: Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 which states that – “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

“We believe that online publication and social media use is a welcome disruptor consistent with the aspirations of Nigerians and we offer credible, integrity laden and purposeful lawmakers a different approach that adopts a strategy of assisting the Senate to re-orient any bill that would improve, sanitize and expand the frontiers and penetration of responsible online publishing and social media use.”

“There are laws in other jurisdictions guiding internet use from which we can learn useful lessons from. Examples include the Computer Misuse Act (1990) –UK; Electronic Communications Act (2000) – UK; Electronic Commerce Regulations (2000) – UK; Electronic Communications Act, 1999 – Australia; Electronic Transactions Act, 1999 – Australia; Measures on the Administration of Internet Information Services, 2001 – China; Electronic Transactions and Commerce Law No 2 of 2002 – Dubai; Act on the Dissemination of Publications and Media Contents Harmful to Youth –  Germany; Digital Signature Act, 1997 – Germany; Child Online Protection Act, 1998 – United States; and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 1986 – United States; to mention a few.”

“The summary of our position is thus: If the Senate is really interested in providing national interest governance over the use of the internet or electronic communication, as indicated in Sections 3 and 4 of the proposed Bill (bearing in mind the cybercrimes bill of 2014), there are other areas of intervention that can be in public interest such as copyright/intellectual property, anonymity/pseudonymity regulation, editorial rules compliance, obscenity, privacy, child molestation, pedophilia, harassment, competition rules etc.

“The attempt to jump from petitions/affidavit to electronic communication is dubious at best with no clear guidance on interpretations for intent, petition, and other issues covered under the Freedom of Information Act and protection of whistleblowers.”

“They are two different issues. While the emphasis on affidavits seeks to tie the hands of the petitioner with a threat of perjury, the extension violates basic human rights, and runs counter to the letter and spirit of certain extant laws: the mischief that the law maker seeks to address in this regard is however already taken care of by other extant laws, to wit:  the laws on libel and defamation.”

“The relationship between government and new media may be complex, but it may well be the case that majority of the people expect government to control offensive or dangerous media and communications, whether old or new; but not to shield dubious, corrupt and fraudulent conduct by public officials.”

“Therefore, instead of seeing censorship as an untoward governmental intrusion into a domain of legitimate private choice, we believe a more constructive engagement with key stakeholders can elevate the subject to the domain of public interest and help guide an ill-informed Senate towards more enlightened direction.

Finally, in pushing ahead with this bill, the Nigerian Senate has only succeeded in representing itself as a “Threat” to Democracy. This proposed bill must therefore be thrown out in its entirety as is.

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Nigeria: UN hears petition on repressive social media bill

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye is considering the urgent appeal against the bill repressive social media bill known as ‘A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith’, rights group Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has confirmed.

In a statement today by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organisation said that, “SERAP can confirm that the Office of the Special Rapporteur is now considering our petition. We have received communication from Marcelo Daher at the Office of the Special Rapporteur to this effect. The Special Rapporteur has also requested a copy of the bill, which SERAP has promptly sent to Marcelo Daher.”

“SERAP appreciates the prompt attention to this matter by the Office of the Special Rapporteur. We urge the UN to pursue this matter to a satisfactory conclusion by ensuring that the Nigerian Senate is not allowed to strangulate media freedom and social media in the country,” the group said.

According to the group, “The only option for the Senate now is to withdraw this obnoxious bill without further delay and end this international embarrassment. SERAP will be prepared to withdraw the petition at the UN if the Senate can follow this honourable path.”

It would be recalled that SERAP last week sent an urgent appeal to Mr. David Kaye requesting him to “use your good offices and position to urgently request the National Assembly of Nigeria, specifically the Senate, to withdraw a bill which if passed into law would undermine the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression and press freedom on the internet in the country.”

Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was copied in the urgent appeal.

In the urgent appeal, the organisation expressed serious concerns “that the National Assembly of Nigeria will any moment from now pass a bill to jail for two years and fine anybody or group of persons who send any alleged false text message or post false message on the social media against another person.”

“SERAP is concerned that rather than increasing universal and inclusive access to the Internet for all Nigerians, the National Assembly of Nigeria is working to undermine access of citizens to the Internet. Yet, freedom of expression entails the ability to both speak and receive information, including through the social media and other generated content services such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and chat applications,” the organisation said.

The organisation also said that, “By initiating this bill, the National Assembly is impermissibly restricting the ability of the citizens to use these tools to communicate, connect, and seek independent sources of information.”

“SERAP also contends that the bill will restrain access to internet and social media, curtail the freedom of the press, and online content in illegitimate, disproportionate, or otherwise unlawful and abusive ways. The real targets of the bill are social media and human rights defenders that might be critical of government policies or report on corruption involving high ranking government officials,” the organisation also said.

“International law provides that any restriction to rights online must be provided in law, pursuant to a legitimate aim, and limited to only what is necessary and proportionate. SERAP believes that the bill falls far short of international requirements of legitimacy, necessity and proportionality,” the organisation added.

According to the organisation, “The bill will also have chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country, as it will create an atmosphere of fear among bloggers and online activists who may not post critical commentary on Facebook or other social media platforms for fear of being sent to jail. The Internet cannot enable citizens and others to participate in governance or critique government policy if they cannot freely access information, use social media services, or if they fear being sent to jail simply for expressing their views.” The organisation said that, “While it is important to protect personal integrity in social media, a clean, transparent and accountable government that has nothing to fear will not use this ground as an excuse to undermine the sacred right to freedom of expression.”

SERAP therefore asked the Special Rapporteur to:

  1. Publicly express concerns about the proposed bill and insist that the National Assembly of Nigeria should withdraw the bill
  2. Urge the National Assembly in particular the Senate to protect freedom of expression online in line with international standards
  3. Urge the National Assembly to allow free space for expression without fear of criminal prosecution, and not to contemplate impermissible restrictions to access internet and social media
  4. Urge the National Assembly to promote and facilitate access to the media in the country
  5. Urge the National Assembly to ensure that in the exercise of its legislative duties it complies with Nigerian international human rights obligations and commitments

The bill, titled: “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith”, is sponsored by Senator Ibn Na’Allah, APC, Kebbi South. The bill provides for an option of N4 million for persons convicted of false newspaper, radio and television statements and N2 million for offenders of false phone text messages or messages on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp. The bill also punishes alleged malicious intent to discredit or set the public against any person or group of persons, institutions of government.

On the social media, the bill read: “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media post any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment.”

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Rents crash by 50% as businesses, individuals relocate

The persistent traffic gridlock along the Apapa – Oshodi Expressway has forced mass relocation of businesses and individuals out of Apapa, causing property rents to crash by 50 percent.

The Apapa-Oshodi Expressway links the nation’s biggest seaport, Apapa port, to other parts of the country. Hence most of the goods imported or exported are transported through this major road. The road in recent times has been rendered impassable due to traffic gridlock caused by several factors, chiefly tankers carrying petroleum products, which converge on the road in their hundreds to load products from the various petroleum tank farms located within and around Apapa city.

Vanguard gathered from visits to some residential areas in Apapa that a three bedroom flat along Warehouse Road now goes for N250, 000 per annum instead of N500, 000; a four unit of three bedroom flats along Liverpool Road goes for N2.5 million instead of  N5  million per annum; while a four bedroom flat with three toilets at Alhaji Kareem Street costs N400, 000 as annual rent. Also, a two bedroom flat at Apapa Ajegunle goes for N120, 000 as rent per annum.

Speaking on the sharp reduction in rent, a real estate agent who operates from Warehouse Road, Oni Seun told Vanguard that landlords in the area decided to reduce their rent as a way of attracting new residents to the area. He said: “Tenants are packing out, no one is ready to relocate to this area, and the traffic has thoroughly affected our business.

Prior to this time, we rent out a three bedroom flat for N500, 000 to N600,000, but right now, it goes for N250, 000 and yet people are not ready to settle here. Most houses in this area are vacant; we have a lot of office spaces to rent out. I am using this opportunity to call on the federal government to come to our aid because we are going through hell.”

– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/01/rents-crash-50-businesses-individuals-relocate/#sthash.OQoiNHSJ.dpuf


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PRESIDENCY: IBB backs Buhari

MINNA—Nigeria’s former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (ret), yesterday, endorsed the presidential aspiration of General Muhammadu Buhari, saying the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate was suitably positioned to salvage the country.
Babangida who received Buhari in his Minna, Niger State residence also said the country’s retired generals would back Buhari being one of their own. He dismissed as fable, media insinuations of a feud between him and Buhari.

Buhari’s visit to Babangida was on the fringes of his campaign to Minna which was climaxed with the defection of the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Ahmed Ibeto to the APC.

Expressing his appreciation of Buhari’s unwavering commitment to service of the fatherland, during the visit to his Hill Top residence in Minna, General Babangida said: “You have beaten some of us in proving Gen. Douglas McArthur’s theory that “old soldiers never die but fade away gradually,” but you have refused to fade away.

“I wish to congratulate members of the party for the honour of nominating my colleague, General Muhammadu Buhari as your presidential candidate in 2015 election”.

Debunking media insinuations of an unending feud between himself and Buhari who he ousted as Head of State in 1985, Babangida said:
“You media men have created this impression that we are fighting each other. Look at us here today; he knows what I mean and I know what he means. We both fought to keep Nigeria one when we were young majors then. We were well travelled.

“I want to commend APC for choosing our colleague as your flag bearer. All of us will support you (Buhari) in this cause to salvage this country,” IBB stated.

Buhari had before then explained to Babangida that he was in Minna to solicit votes towards realising his aspiration to again lead the country as a civilian president and expressed joy on the reception given him and his delegation by the former military president.
Buhari said that he had earlier visited another former ruler, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who he said refused to decamp from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP but nevertheless gave his blessing to his aspiration.

On Buhari’s entourage were the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the deputy national chairman of the APC, Senator Lawali Shuaibu; Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Governor Rotimi Amaechi; party chieftains including Chief Audu Ogbeh, Chief Bisi Akande, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Mr. Segun Oni and Ms Temi Harriman.

Others are General Abdurahaman Dambazzau, Senator George Akume, Chief Niyi Adebayo, Senator Bukola Saraki, Alhaji Kawu Baraje and Chief Kemi Nelson among others.

Following the courtesy call, Buhari addressed a large rally at the Polo Ground, Minna where he vowed that if successful in the election, he would wage a total war against insecurity in the country as he pledged to fully equip the military for the assignment.

He pledged that his administration would use the agricultural potentials of the state to an advantage and also promised that agriculture would be given the pride of place in his government.

The candidate urged those who turned out that the promises he was making would, however, only be realised “if the people go out to vote, peacefully stay behind and ensure that their votes count”.

Osinbajo, Tinubu speak
Before Buhari spoke, his running mate, Professor Osinbajo had told the crowd that an APC government would frontally address the problems in the power sector saying: “We have to settle the problem in the power sector. We know the problem and we are going to find solution to the problem. We have the answer, Nigerians should give us chance by voting for APC come February 14, 2015.”

Also speaking, Tinubu, also the Jagaban Borgu in Niger State, flayed President Goodluck Jonathan as a man not to be trusted with his words. He said the president had promised not to vie for a second term before the 2011 elections.

“President Jonathan in one African country in 2011 promised to spend only four years. He went further to say that if he can’t fix Nigeria in four years, he will not be able to succeed in 20 years, so why must we allow a man who failed to honour a promise he made four years ago?”

He described the Jonathan administration as a failure, saying the government could not count tangible achievements in six years.
Governor Amaechi in his address described the Jonathan administration as steeped in fraud. He dismissed last Sunday’s reduction in petrol price as a fraud as, according to him, the reduction was late and did not meet the reduction in global price of crude.

The rally was climaxed with the defection of the incumbent deputy governor of the state, Ahmed Musa Ibeto to the APC. Ibeto came along with 319 other PDP chieftains to APC.

– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/01/presidency-ibb-backs-buhari/#sthash.trmeTEN5.dpufIBB-Buhari


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Nigeria downplays Chad’s move to capture Baga: Boko Haram

In what has raised concerns over possible violation of Nigeria’s sovereignty, the Chadian government in collaboration with its Cameroonian counterpart, has sent troops to recapture Nigeria’s border town of Baga from Boko Haram insurgents, without the knowledge or approval of the Nigerian government.

The Nigerian military confirmed Monday it had no knowledge of an order by President Idriss Deby of Chad, deploying that country’s armed forces in pursuit of Boko Haram in Nigerian territory.

Regardless, defence spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, said the order makes little difference since Chad already belongs to a Multinational force alongside Nigeria, Cameroun and Niger, set up to tackle the terrorist group.

Boko Haram militants captured the town on January 3 after it sacked a base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, there and unleashed terror on the civilian population in the town.

Amnesty International said over 2,000 people were killed in the attack, while the Nigerian military said the casualty figure was not more than 150.

Nigerien and Chadian troops who were part of the MNJTF had withdrawn from the town prior to the attack.

On Saturday, thousands of people marched some kilometres waving the Chadian flag in support of Chadian troops dispatched to fight Boko Haram troops in Nigerian and Cameroon.

The Chadian president, Mr. Deby, said in a speech read by the country’s head of parliament that the aim of the troops was to capture Baga.

“We answered the call of (Cameroon’s) President Paul Biya. We cannot remain indifferent to what happens to our neighbours. Cameroon must not be left alone to face this threat that has so hurt innocent people in Cameroon and in Nigeria,” said Mr. Deby.

Apparently left in the dark, the Nigerian military, however, seems confused over the development.

The Defence Spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, confirmed that the government was unaware of the deployments but said that he would need to “verify”.

“I’ll need to verify what you are saying but it is not as if everything is out of order, there is Multinational Joint Task Force which allows us to interact with forces of neighbouring countries among which they are,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

“But even with that being the case, there cannot be solo operations in that area that will ignore the existing Nigeria’s arrangement for that area,” he added.

Security experts say the response of the Nigerian government to the development is worrying.

“The Nigerian government saying through the army spokesperson, General Olukolade that they are ‘lukewarm’ to Chad’s mission to Nigeria is very troubling to say the least. If Chad’s intentions and mission is good intended then why should the Nigerian government be kept out of the loop and be unenthusiastic? This questions the trust we as a people have in both governments. Would the Nigerian government not wish Chad assist them in rescuing occupied territories? Is there intelligence with the Nigerian administration that makes them suspicious of Chad; or are they uninterested in Nigeria’s liberation?” Peregrino Brimah, of the civil society group, Every Nigerian Do Something (ENDS).

Mr. Brimah said the announcement of Mr. Deby to his people that his troops were on a mission to re-capture Baga without informing President Goodluck Jonathan is similar to Mexico announcing it was going to rescue a troubled Texas with the knowledge of the United State government.

“Chad setting out to assist Cameroon at their request is appropriate, however for the Chadian president, Idriss Deby to announce formally to his people and to the international press that his troops will be invading Nigeria to “re-capture” Baga, without express permission and willful authorization by the Goodluck Jonathan administration is absurd. It is like Mexico deciding it will invade the United States to rescue a “plagued Texas” without the explicit approval of the United States government.”

This development is even more worrying with the allegation that elements in the Chadian and Nigerien armies are complicit in providing support for the terrorist group.

Last September PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported that credible intelligence obtained by sources within the Chadian army linked former Governor of Borno State, Ali Sheriff and Mr. Deby to Boko Haram sponsorship. Messrs Sheriff and Deby are close friends.

“…members of Boko Haram sect are sometimes kept in Abeche region in Chad and trained before being dispersed. This happens usually when Mr. Sheriff visits Abeche,” a 2011 intelligence memo from field officers in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, read.

The report said Mr. Deby provided “ready army and possible refuge” to Boko Haram insurgents and his support for the insurgents is linked with his friendship with Mr Sheriff, a known gunrunner.

“Military reports from Biu pointed to Chadians being a major force in Boko Haram. Boko Haram courts ruling occupied parts of the northeast have been reported to be presided over by Boko Haram Chadian nationals and not even Nigerians. There are serious questions of Chad’s complicity to say the least in Boko Haram’s proliferation, the harbouring of Boko Haram terror training camps, Boko Haram’s sourcing of weapons, its trade in abducted persons and even allowing the nation be a place of retreat for wounded and fleeing terrorists and a dock where stolen properties from Nigeria are transferred,” said Mr. Brimah.

While suggesting better cooperation and trust between Nigeria and Chad, Mr. Brimah said Nigeria should not compromise on the issue of the violation of its national integrity and pride.

“Nigerians should not be forced to choose between Boko Haram terror and foreign violations of our national pride, sovereignty and international boundary laws. In the event of Chad “re-capturing” Baga; what are the terms of its returning this and other Nigerian territories to Nigeria? Such modalities should have been worked out before a Chadian proposition of a mission into Nigeria.” Source Premium Times http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/175232-boko-haram-nigeria-downplays-chads-move-capture-baga.html

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