National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Okey Wali (SAN), yesterday decried the clampdown on newspapers by the Nigerian military and demanded an immediate clarification from the government.
Wali described the development as “strange to democracy”.
He also faulted the explanation given by Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, justifying the siege laid on newspaper distribution routes, which enters its fourth day today.
“Clampdown on newspaper distribution is not and cannot be a language in a democracy and we do not understand what the defence spokesman and the Presidency are saying. We expect clarification from the government. This, they must do as soon as possible. We are waiting”, the NBA president said.
In his reaction, the Convener of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER), Mr. Ayo Opadokun, urged all rights activists to rise and defend press freedom.
In a chat with The Nation, Mr. Opadokun noted that if government continued its clamp down on the media, the society could slide into anarchy.
He said: “The political operators at the national level think they are doing us any good, they think they are being kind by passing the Freedom of Information Act. It is our fundamental human right, and nobody can take this away from us”.
Opadokun said: “Some of us lost our lives in the struggle against forces of darkness in Nigeria. If a government is not comfortable in the area of reportage in any matter, it should go to court and seek redress.
“They can file action against such media house. That is the constitutional and legitimate thing to do. They should stop the shenanigan and with all sense of responsibilities, we will not allow them to continue with all these acts that will take us back again to dark years in Nigeria.
“President Goodluck Jonathan should recall that the democracy we enjoy today, we fought for it. The media played major role in the democracy which he himself is now a sole beneficiary. He should not be the one that will truncate our hard-earned democracy because he signed the Act.
“Those who are trying to take our freedom of expression should warn themselves. He should not allow some charlatans in his government to tell us buffoon stories on why government is clamping down on the media.
“If the government continues, I want to call on those in the human rights crusade to prepare; we would be going to the trenches once more, to fight for our rights, no government can take the rights of the people which the constitution has guaranteed”, he said