Position of coalition of civil society organizations read by Mbasekei Martin Obono, Executive Director, Tap Nitiative at the 65TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS BANJUL, THE GAMBIA, OCTOBER 2019
Nigerians, human rights organisations and Human rights defenders in Nigeria are concerned by the continued stifling of the press, erosion of fundamental freedoms of expression, and the failure of the Nigerian Government to reform the Criminal Justice system in Nigeria. In recent times, documented reports show an increasing trend in the arrest of journalists and other individuals found to share opinions contrary to the stance of the government of Nigeria or communications criticising the government.
In Nigeria, journalists risk prosecution under restrictive laws, including the broadly worded Cybercrimes Act. Bloggers were arrested under its provisions in 2016 but non has been convicted since then A Nigerian Journalist, Jones Abiri is facing prosecution under the Act he was held by Nigeria’s secret police without any charge for 2years and was rearrested in 2019.
Agba Jalingo, a journalist and publisher is currently in jail and facing allegations of treason after he published a story on alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross-River Governor, Abubakar Idris popularly called Dadiyata was forcefully taken from his home in Kaduna, his whereabout remain unknown.
Recently, Fisayo Soyombo, a journalist released an investigative report on the criminal justice system in Nigeria, documenting interactions with the Nigerian police, the courts and the Nigerian correctional services, raising questions as to the competence and credibility of the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
There is a need for the commission’s mechanism on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa to look into the findings of the investigative report and request accountability from the relevant bodies in Nigeria.
With the ongoing trend of arrests, intimidation and illegal detention of journalists, there are serious concern for the safety of Fisayo Soyombo,
We Note: That there are cogent issues raised in the investigative report, these issues cannot be ignored as these are issues that peculiarly affect the poor, women, young persons and the people vulnerable because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. A corrupt criminal justice system subjects Nigerians to arbitrary arrests, illegal detention and an erosion of their fundamental human rights to fair hearing, these issues deserve the urgent attention of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
We Further Note: That the Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, and courts in recent years have issued rulings that expanded legal protections for journalists. However, criminal and civil laws punish various press and speech offenses, including sedition, criminal defamation, and the publication of false news. Impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists remains a problem.
We therefore implore the Commission to invoke its protective mandate to call on:
1. The Government of Nigeria to constitute an independent body to investigate the crucial claims contained this investigative report.
2. The Nigerian Government to release all journalists in detention and cease to stifle the freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
3. The National Human Rights Commission to investigate and address the arrests and unlawful detention of journalists in Nigeria.
We Urge the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to;
1. Engage the special mechanism on the Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African commission in the investigation of arrests and detention of journalists in Nigeria, undertake an investigative mission to Nigeria appropriate recommendations to the African Commission;
2. Engage the Special mechanism of the commission on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa to examine the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in Nigeria.