A New Threat to Freedom

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

Section 39(1) of Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states:

Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.

This right to freedom of expression is at risk with the proposed Bill of the Executive reportedly sent to the National Assembly. In the interest of eternal vigilance, this is part of what was reported in the Vanguard Online:

“ABUJA— PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has forwarded an anti-terrorism bill to the National Assembly which provides, among other things, stringent sanctions  for the dissemination of true or false information that may intimidate the government or persons. The bill entitled Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2006 also provides stringent sanctions for activities such as kidnapping of oil workers and damages to installations of companies operating in the country’s off shore waters.”

Read it at http://odili.net/news/source/2006/aug/1/302.html

Raison d’etre: Niger Delta

While we agree with the Federal government that terrorism of any kind is abhorrent and stands as an anti-thesis to a democracy, draconian laws reminiscent of the strong-arm military tactics of yesteryears simply would not fly this time. The president is famed to have a plethora of attorneys on hand; they all missed it with this reported Bill. Any constitutional challenge would throw it to the litter-can where it truly belongs.

We reiterate that while we condemn the practice of kidnapping or destroying of oil installations; entering private property to stop legitimate business; as well as taking innocent workers hostage is despicable and should be stopped. However, the Niger Delta requires a multi-pronged approach to conflict prevention and resolution and not saber-rattling.

Of particular concern of the proposed Bill is section 2 which Vanguard summarizes as follows:

Section 2 of the bill which defines terrorist activities includes actions taken to unduly compel government or international organisations to perform or abstain from  performing any act. The definition of terrorism also includes actions that may seriously destabilise or destroy the fundamental, political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.

The question is; what international organizations is the Federal Government of Nigeria beholden to that it would seek to criminalize its citizens for? If the organizations are corporate citizens, must there be a separate law for the corporations that put them on the same pedestal as the government of Nigeria? Do the nations where these international organizations are headquartered treat them different from their citizens? What is the reasoning behind such asinine kow-towing to vested foreign interests? This, from one who is ready to die for Nigeria?

To illustrate

For instance, if I write a true story about “slush” funds given by some ungodly inhumane, international organization acting in concert to their corrupt Nigerian government official collaborators in stealing the future of the Nigerian people, I will be offending this Bill. This is also regardless of whether the information is “true or false”. Decree 4 all over again?

My Final Question is, did the Attorney General, the SAN, the former NBA President, the Defender of the Constitution draft this Bill?

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