Warns Against Attack on Free Speech
Demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari balance the composition of the National Defence Council to stop the illegal dominance of one ethno-religious group, a human rights platform – Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the minister of Defence, Retired Major General Mansur Dan-Ali to stop providing subtle justification for the dastardly criminal attacks by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen.
To the civil society group, the statement credited to the Minister of Defence which affirmed that the proliferation of anti-open grazing laws in different states of the federation and blockade of so-called grazing routes were responsible for bloody violence unleashed by armed Fulani herdsmen, was unpatriotic and unstatesmanly even as HURIWA accused the presidency of pampering suspected armed Fulani herdsmen because of similarity in ethno-religious affiliations with all heads of internal security agencies under President Buhari including the defence minister who is Fulani also.
In order to douse the mutual mistrust that has been further exacerbated and heightened by the unacceptable statement of subtle justification of the attacks as contained in the reported media statement of the serving Defence Minister who is of Hausa/Fulani ethnicity, HURIWA has once more called on President Buhari to respect the constitutional provision of federal character principle and to commence the immediate and comprehensive reconstitution of the national security team to reflect the Federal character of Nigeria and end the ugly era of the Fulanisation of national security team.
“Specifically, Section 42 (1) (2) of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) averred that: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person – (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizen Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions; (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth”.
HURIWA insists that the lopsided domination of the Security forces by Hausa/Fulani Ethnicity is a grave breach of the extant provision as coted above even as the selective appointments of persons from one section of Nigeria amounted to discrimination which is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional.
“Nigerians expect the holder of the high office of Defence Minister to be patriotic enough to denounce blood cuddling terror attacks being masterminded by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen, but what has come out from the meeting of President Buhari’s security meeting as relayed by the Defence Minister shows that the current administration is not determined to arrest, prosecute and punish all perpetrators of the bloody killings in Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa and Enugu states suspected to be armed Fulani herdsmen but rather the national security forum has now become the mouthpiece of cattle owners who are mostly Fulani.
“The current administration must respect the constitution and provide security to lives and property of the citizens and should desist from making irresponsible and insensitive statements which may be construed as seeking justification for the numerous bloody attacks waged by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen”.
“The claim that anti-open grazing laws and the blockade of grazing routes for the attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen is shocking and alarming to have emanated from someone whose salaries are maintained by the tax payers of all ethno-religious components that make up the Nigerian state. The Defence Minister must be sanctioned by relevant authorities for issuing this callous and insensitive statement which amounts to dancing on the graves of the thousands of innocent Nigerians massacred by armed Fulani herdsmen in the last three years since Buhari came into office”.
Stating that states have the constitutional powers to make laws to guarantee security of lives and property of their citizens which is what the anti-open grazing laws means, HURIWA referred the Defence minister to the Constitution in Section 11 (1) (2) which provide thus: “(1) The National Assembly may make laws for the federation or any part thereof with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order and providing, maintaining and securing of such supplies and services as may be designated by the National Assembly as essential supplies and services; (2) Nothing in this section shall preclude a House of Assembly from making laws with respect to the matters referred to in this section, including the provision for maintenance and securing of such supplies and services as may be designated by the National Assembly as essential supplies and services”.
Also, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) in the media statement through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, warned the federal government to perish the thoughts of beginning an illegal war against free speech.
“No government in this modern era will succeed in turning Nigeria into a full blown dictatorship without incurring active resistance from millions of the citizens who would become slaves and second class citizens should they keep quite and allow the dictator to institutionalise tyranny of one man”.
The Rights group said any attempt through subterfuge to whittle down the enjoyment of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and media rights would amount to waging war against constitutional democracy even as the Rights group warned government not to carry out its threat to go after new media users in the guise of fighting hate speech because what is being planned is simply an illegal war against constitutionalism.