The former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) which eventually merged with three other parties to form the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned former President Goodluck Jonathan for proscribing and designating Boko Haram a terrorist group in 2013.
On Friday, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters designated the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation in what has been described by many legal experts as a rather hasty and unconstitutional decision.
In a statement issued on June 9, 2013, Lai Mohammed, the then National Publicity Secretary of ACN, now Minister of Information, said that the proscription of Boko Haram and Ansaru violates the Constitution and tampers with the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
“Let us be clear that we do not condone the activities of these sects that have killed and maimed innocent Nigerians and turned a section of the country into a battle field,” he said four years ago.
“But we believe that whatever action government takes – even in an emergency – must pass the Constitutional test, especially since the relevant sections of the Constitution have not been suspended.”
Jonathan formally approved Boko Haram’s designation as a terrorist group and authorized the gazetting of an order declaring the group’s activities as acts of terrorism on June 4, 2013.
A statement to that regard, issued by Reuben Abati, then Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said that “participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the collective intentions of the said groups will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act”.
But the ACN, in its statement, said it found parts of the statement offensive, especially section 5 (1), which prescribes a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years “for any person who knowingly, in any manner, directly or indirectly, solicits or renders support for the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group”.
The ACN said “support”, as defined by the Order, includes “incitement to commit a terrorist act through the Internet, or any electronic means or through the use of printed materials or through the dissemination of terrorist information”.
“Is this subsection not in conflict with Chapter II Section 22 of the Nigeria constitution, which says ‘The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media, shall AT ALL TIMES BE FREE (emphasis ours) to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people?,” Mohammed asked in the statement.
“By stifling the press, is the Order not abridging a part of the fundamental human rights guaranteed every citizen under Chapter Four of the Nigerian Constitution in Section 39 (1), which states thus: ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference?’(emphasis ours).
“Can journalists escape being sentenced to 20-year jail terms for publishing statements issued by the sects? Can they freely report on videos periodically posted on YouTube by Boko Haram leader Shekau?
“Can the media freely report the kind of massacre that took place in Baga in April without being held liable for ‘supporting’ terrorism? Can radio and television stations organise talk shows on terrorism without the discussants being held liable for ‘supporting’ terrorism?
“Does this Order cover the satellite broadcast channels that can be accessed in many homes across the country? Who determines when this Order has been breached? These are some of the questions that arise under the proscription Order.”
As of Saturday, Mohammed hadn’t commented on the military’s ‘terrorist group’ tag on IPOB, despite that the process followed the path of the very concerns he raised in 2013.
Source: Naija News