A leading pro-democracy and non-governmental organization- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has described as shameful and reprehensible the reported harassment of a Journalist of The Guardian Newspaper by officials of the Nigerian High Commission in London, the United Kingdom over the weekend.
The group has also demanded that the National Assembly must take concrete and verifiable measures to sanction officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Ontario, Canada accused of serial corruption and mistreatment of our nationals in that country who are constantly extorted of their hard earned money just to obtain the renewals of their Nigerian passports.
In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, the Rights group said it was a crime against constitutional democracy that public officials serviced by the Nigerian tax payers could subject a Nigerian journalist to horrendous ordeals.
HURIWA calls the invitation of the metropolitan police of London to arrest and detain The Guardian Journalist as outrageous and barbaric more so when the media worker was just legitimately attempting to do his reportorial duty to Nigerians in line with the Nigerian Constitution to furnish the Nigerian readers with the correct information on the wellbeing of President Muhammadu Buhari who has been on an extended medical vacation for a month.
HURIWA faulted the claim of the Embassy officials that the Nigerian House was a private residence because the housing assets were acquired with tax payers’ fund drawn from the public till and therefore the House in London visited by the London based The Guardian of Nigeria Journalist is a public housing assets belonging to the people of Nigeria.
HURIWA affirmed that by the virtue of Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution the Nigerian media is well within its constitutional responsibility to investigate such a national story like the opaque nature of handling of the Nigerian President’s medical vacation by his close staff which has created unprecedented anxieties and tensions in Nigeria.
“It is the Constitutional duty of the media to inform, educate and entertain the Nigerian citizenry with the much anticipated verifiable, objective, sound, balanced and non-partisan information about the whereabouts and exact health status of the President who is the President by the virtue of the legitimacy of the assignment given to him by the electorate during the year 2015 election,” it argued.
Continuing, the Rights group averred thus: ” The Nigerian President is no longer a private citizen but the leader of the people of Nigeria which obliges officials of government the constitutional task of allowing the media to play her role allowed within the context of Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended)”.
Specifically Section 22 of the Constitution States thus: “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 of the Government to the people.”
HURWA condemned the hostile attitudes of the Nigerian officials in the Nigeria’s United Kingdom Embassy for embarrassing the country by inviting the British Police to arrest a Nigerian Journalist just for carrying out his legitimate work on behalf of the Nigerian People.
HURIWA said: “the journalist was simply doing his duty for Nigerians who are deliberately kept in the dark by Presidency officials and are being manipulated and maltreated with the short end of the stick by close aides of the “missing” President by bombarding the Nigerian reading public with Photographs as if the whole thing has become a Nollywood drama.”
Besides, the Rights group said the secrecy surrounding the exact whereabouts and health status of the Nigerian President has subjected Nigerians to global opprobrium by the global media that have started making caricatures with the seemingly unending medical vacation in the United Kingdom of the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. “These misgivings are worsening the Economic recession in Nigeria because foreign investors are no longer sure of the political stability of Nigeria because of the choreographed information confusion weaved around by influential kitchen cabinet members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration concerning the health status of the Nigerian President”.
HURIWA recalled that Security staff at the Abuja House in London on Sunday called in policemen to arrest a correspondent of The Guardian who was on the premises to see President Muhammadu Buhari and possibly interview him.
HURIWA also recalled that when the correspondent reportedly told a member of staff at the Abuja House, the official residence of the Nigerian High commissioner to the United Kingdom, on Sunday afternoon that he had come to see the president, he replied: “As far as I’m concerned, he’s not here.
The Rights group said it was instructive that the Metropolitan police called in to arrest the media worker simply observed that there was nothing untoward about the presence of the reporter which made them to refuse to harass the media worker as originally contemplated by the tyrannical Embassy officials in the Nigerian United kingdom High commission in London.
“This should serve as a lesson for the Nigerian officials to know that in constitutional democracies the freedom of the press is not muzzled unduly unlike in the primitive backyards known as African continent whereby dissenting voices and the independent media are constantly under violent attacks by state sponsored armed thugs wearing police uniforms and serviced with tax payers’ money.”
On the corruption going on in the Nigerian Embassy in Canada the Rights group said it has become a dangerous pattern replicated in most embassies of the country around the World that officials subject our citizens to untold hardship and are engaging in well contrived bribery schemes meant to extort them of their hard earned resources in the course of seeking to obtain valid travelling Nigerian international passport.
HURIWA calls on Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Mr. Yakubu Dogara to wade in and ensure that Nigerian Embassies are rid of corrupt practices that have become deeply entrenched.
HURIWA has also asked that the National Assembly through a binding legislation directs the Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt practices and allied offences commission (ICPC) to post at least two investigative but non-compromising staff to key Embassies of Nigeria abroad to battle the scourge of corruption and economic crimes by diplomats by monitoring and recommending the recall, prosecution and punishment in Nigeria of corrupt diplomats.