Home News Ozekhome to Umahi: Your ‘fatwa’ against journalism is tyranny, dictatorship

Ozekhome to Umahi: Your ‘fatwa’ against journalism is tyranny, dictatorship

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Ozekhome condenms Umahi’s “fatwa” on Journaists, says it’s re-enactment of Shugaba Darman case
Constitutional rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria,  Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, has condemned Gov. Dave Umahi’s attack on journaists, saying that Governor Umahi has no legal, constitutional or moral powers to pronounce “fatwa” against the Correspondents of The Sun and Vanguard Newspapers in the ordinary course of their duties.
Ozekhome cited Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution which states that “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability and the government to the people”.
He said that the press is one of the indispensable building blocks of any true democracy, such as, at least, we pretend to operate noting that the law is clear and unambiguous on it which is why the press is popularly called the “fourth estate of the realm”.
He reiterated therefore, that any attempt for anyone to muscle or emasculate it or its practitioners amounts to sheer tyranny and dictatorship must be fiecely resisted.
He wondered why journalists should be hounded and hunted down like game or quarry for merely carrying out their Constitutional responsibilities.
He questioned whether Newspapers are sent by their managements to massage the ego of Umahi and his government, or to inform and publish facts of what they observe
Ozekhome faulted Umahi’s pronouncement of “ban for life” on Saturday, 18th April, 2020, and ordered the arrest of Chijioke Agwu, Correspondent of of the Sun Newspaper for merely reporting with vital and uncontradicted statistics duly released by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), a story titled, “anxiety, fear, as lassa fever wreaks havoc in Ebonyi”.
He described as tendentious and poorly cooked the denial by the Governor’s Special Assistant on Media, Francis Nwanze
which was not backed with any evidence where he said the video and audio of the Governor’s statements were doctored.
Ozekhome stated that in decent societies, the Governor would simply have apologised, recalled the journalists and go ahead face serious issues of governance
However, in the absence of where the Governor genuinely feels convinced the journalists had overstepped their boundaries, he could resort to court through a defamation suit.
Ozekhome described as outrageous and condescending to hear a Governor say, “let’s leave the courts alone” and veneered euphemism for saying, “let’s resort to brute force and self-help”.
He said that Governor Umahi lacks the legal or constitutional competency to so do and cannot decide which journalist comes to his state to reside or work.
Ozekhome cited Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution which clearly prohibits Umahi from doing this.
But provides that “every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom
He recalled that a near similar scenario such as this played out in the NPN government of Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Usman Shagari whereby through its minister of Internal Affairs, Alhaji Maitama Sule, had deported Shugaba Abdulrahman Darman (1920-2010), to Chad on January 24, 1980 claiming he was a Chadian but it was politically motivated because Darman, a  charismatic politician belonged to the rival GNPP led by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim.
He stated that this is exactly the history Governor Umahi is struggling very hard to repeat by threatening a “deportation” of Nigerian journalists from his state for allegedly writing unfavourable reports about his government
Ozekhome said that Governor Umahi should withdraw the threat immediately and allow Agwu and Okutu to perform their legitimate duties.

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