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Repression of Press freedom at its peak under Buhari —SERAP



Lai Mohammed

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said on Tuesday that despite democracy being the system of government in Nigeria, press freedom is declining as journalists are attacked, threatened and unlawfully arrested by the current government.

The group stated this in a report titled: “A downward spiral: How federal and state authorities are tightening the screws on media freedom in Nigeria,” during an interactive session on promoting media freedom held in Lagos state.

“The human rights situation in Nigeria is very bad. We’re on a decline,” Agba Jalingo, publisher of CrossRiverWatch, said at the session.

“It’s even worse now than we had under military administration in Nigeria because during the military era, I never saw security men invading a court to arrest people, even when they have been granted bail as it happened in the case of Omoyele Sowore”

Recall that, Mr Jalingo was arrested on August 22, 2019, following a report he published on July 12, 2019, questioning the whereabouts of N500 million approved for the establishment of Cross River State Microfinance Bank by the Ben Ayde administration.

Mr Jalingo added, “I am back home to start from where I stopped and I believe they’ll soon come for my arrest again because few weeks ago, I reported about what Cross River is still doing with the local government funds. I am not going to stop doing that, there’s nothing that will stop me from doing that,” he said.

“In February, they introduced new deductions to the local govt. They are still wondering how I managed to know. One million naira future generational fund from all the 18 local governments and another N2.4 million for community development fund.

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“There is also N2.5 million security coverage while N12 million was remitted by all the 18 local governments to the state commissioner of information. All these monies are not captured in the constitution or budget.

“As a matter of fact, one person has already written a petition as regards that to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and also copied SERAP.

“We want to sue Governor Ayade for those deductions. I am not stopping. They’ve started threatening me again. But I am not going to be afraid of the governor. I will continue asking questions. They’ve told me they will kill me and I replied everybody will die.”

President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Christopher Isiguzo while commending the accountability group for the initiative, said the Nigerian media will not bow to pressure.

Meanwhile, the group’s director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, represented by the the deputy director, Kolawole Oludare, noted that the initiative was to ensure that media freedom is not repressed at this time.

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