By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The foremost Civil Rights Advocacy platform:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked the Presidential Media Adviser Mr. Femi Adesina to read his constitution to understand that President Muhammadu Buhari is not an absolute monarch who has arbitrary powers to abridge the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms of the citizens.
HURIWA recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina had cautioned those calling for the resignation of the President.
HURIWA quoted Adesina as saying that those calling for Buhari’s resignation due to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria were only exercising their freedom of speech, but such expression has its limitations.
HURIWA said the Presidential media aide spoke on Channels Television’s programme, Politics Today, while responding to a question on Nigerians asking for Buhari’s resignation even as he stated as follows: “Under a democracy, people have freedom of speech. You have freedom of speech although that freedom also has boundaries.“There is no freedom that does not have boundaries. The freedom that does not have boundaries will even injure the person who is utilising that freedom.“So, if anybody says that kind of thing under a democracy, it is allowed but when it is bent on causing chaos, that person may be asked to come and answer certain questions”.
However, the civil society group: – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) faulted the logic, legality and validity of the claims made by the Special Media Adviser to the President that citizen’s right to freedom of expression is limited to the extent that they can not advocate the resignation of the president if he is not doing enough to secure the Country. The Rights group said the President as the Head of the executive arm of government recognised under section 5 of the Constitutional provisions lacks the judicial powers to impose any sort of limitation or derogation to the enjoyment of the citizens’ rights just as the Rights group said the Court of competent jurisdiction enjoys the judicial powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as spelt out in Section 6.
HURIWA said apart the fundamental Rights provisions of chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended), the Grund norm in section 14 (2) (a) provides that “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its power and authority”.
HURIWA therefore expresses utter disappointment that the Presidential Media Advisor can spread the fake news to the effect that the same Nigerians who donated the legitimacy to the President as well as other elected public office holders to exercise authority, can not at the same time exercise their fundamental Human Rights Constitutionally guaranteed to advocate the resignation of the non-performing President especially if the President fails to discharge his primary legal duty spelt out in section 14 (2) (b) which says that the primary duty of government is the protection of lives and property and the welfare of the citizenry.
The Rights group argued also that section 14 (2) (c) of the Constitution provides that:“The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.
The Rights group said “Freedom of expression is inevitably one of the fundamental rights, which are universally recognised and protected. Indeed, the Constitutions of most countries of the world, including Nigeria as a constitutional democracy , have expressly provided for the protection of this right because of its importance and relevance to the enhancement of personal liberty and democracy”.
The Rights group said the right to freedom of expression is also protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and are replicated in many other regional Instruments and Conventions on human rights, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights just as the legal obligations and duties are imposed on the State or its agencies and on individuals to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. Specifically, Freedom of speech is enshrined in section 39 (1).”
HURIWA submitted that although the right to freedom of expression, like most other rights, is not absolute and that there are recognised restrictions and exceptions to this right; one of which is to be found in the law of defamation, the Rights group said the President, Muhammadu Buhari as an elected democratically inaugurated government that is bound by the Constitution, he has no absolutist powers to fundamentally abridge the human rights of Citizens that are constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms of the citizens “.
The Rights group said the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression must take into cognizance the right of other citizens to protect their reputation just as it admitted that only the courts therefore have an important role to play in balancing the conflicting interests between freedom of expression and protection of reputation. The Rights group said the Department of States Services and the Security forces have no powers to arrest, detain or even probe the use to which the citizens have democratically and constitutional deployed their freedom of speech. HURIWA said the President can not therefore not expect the citizens to demand his resignation if he fails to protect them just as the Rights group said RESIGNATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA IS CLEARLY PROVIDED FOR IN A LOT OF SECTIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION.