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US Lawmakers Express Worry Over Crackdown On Journalists, Activists In Nigeria

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Robert Menendez

Some lawmakers in the United States of America have expressed concern over the “clamp down” on journalists and civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria.

In a letter dated November 25 and addressed to Sylvanus Nsofor, Nigeria’s ambassador to the US, the lawmakers said the arrest of journalists and “harassment of peaceful protesters” are beginning to negatively impact the image of government.

“We write to express strong concern about closing media and civic space in Nigeria,” read the letter signed by Robert Menendez, a senator from New Jersey, and Josh Gottheimer, a member of congress.

“There have been a number of troubling reports about Nigerian security services assaulting and detaining journalists, using excessive force on non-violent protesters and taking other actions that inhibit freedom of expression, and otherwise prevent Nigerians from fully exercising their fundamental constitutional rights.

“Journalists and activists such as Omoyele Sowore, Jones Abiri, Kofi Bartels, Samuel Ogundipe, and others investigating and speaking-out about politically sensitive problems like corruption or insecurity have been harassed and detained; with reports that some have even been tortured.

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“In the least one instance, the Department of Security Services has ignored a court order to release a detained activist. Restrictions and deadly crackdowns on non-violent protests since 2015 have similarly reflected a lack of apparent commitment to civic freedom which is beginning to negatively impact the image of Nigeria’s government, both at home and abroad.”

The US lawmakers said Nigeria has a critical role to play in preserving peace and stability in West Africa, and as the most populous democracy on the continent, it could serve as a shining example of how countries can best observe the rights enshrined in the African charter on human and people’s rights.

“Failure to respect the rights in the charter and those in the Nigeria’s constitution, the congress said undermines the country’s ability to lead in the area,” the letter read.

“We urge you to ensure that the rights and liberties contained in the constitution are observed for all citizens, and to take strong action against further closing space for journalists, political opposition, and those in civil society.”

The lawmakers added that they will look forward to seeing progress “on this critically important issue.”

Inside Nigeria

We’ll Bring Diezani Back To Nigeria To Face Justice — EFCC Boss, Magu Vows

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Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has vowed that the anti-graft agency would ensure that former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, is repatriated to Nigeria to face criminal charges against her.

Magu made the vow in Ibadan, Oyo state today Wednesday, January 22nd 2020, while fielding questions from journalists during his working visit to the Commission’s Ibadan zonal office. He earlier told journalists when he was at the Ilorin Zonal Office on a working visit yesterday.

He said the Commission had traced a number of criminal activities ranging from abuse of office, bribery, fraud, misuse of public funds and money-laundering to the former minister, who is currently at large to avoid questions on alleged criminal activities dotting her years as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The anti-graft chairman, who wondered why her current country of abode has not surrendered her to Nigeria to face justice, said the EFCC would do everything within its power to get her prosecuted this year.

Diezani who was the Minister of Petroleum Resources during the Goodluck Jonathan administration has been accused of a wide range of financial impropriety while she was in office. She currently resides in the United Kingdom.

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Inside Nigeria

Nigeria Won’t React To Speculations On US Travel Ban — Presidency

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The Presidency has said Nigeria will need to get proper briefing before reacting to the reported travel ban plan against the country by the United States of America’s government.

Reports emerged on Tuesday indicating that the President Donald Trump’s administration has plans to add seven countries across the world, including Nigeria, to the country’s travel ban list.

The report, which was credited to some American media, identified the countries to be affected in the new ban to include Tanzania, Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria from Africa; Kyrgyzstan and Belarus from Eastern Europe and Myanmar from Asia.

However, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a terse message on Wednesday evening, said Nigeria will not react to such diplomatic development based on just media report.

According to him, the government would take its time to watch how the said development unfolds, take a study and analysis of its expected reach and effect before giving an official reaction.

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Mallam Garba said: “Yes we have read the news that the Trump administration is planning to add a host of African, Asian and Eastern European countries to its travel restrictions list as reported by the U.S. media.

“We are not going to react to speculations. We urge you to wait for us to see what unfolds under the new policy, its scope, its reach, the implications and its consequences before we react,” he said.

The President of the United States Donald Trump during a recent media interview, had hinted of adding some countries to the restriction list of his country.

Trump, according to reports, did, however, not give clues to which countries might be affected in the new round of restriction.

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Inside Nigeria

[FULL STATEMENT] Amotekun Not A Threat To National Unity — Tinubu

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National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has finally broken his silence on the raging debate surrounding Amotekun, the regional security outfit recently created by South West governors.

In a statement released today Wednesday January 22nd, Tinubu faulted claims made by some Nigerians that the country will be put in great danger if Amotekun which was created to confront the insecurity in the South West states, is allowed to function.

According to him, Amotekun does not pose any threat to National unity.

Read his statement below:

“Those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the Republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion. Those claiming that the Federal Government seeks to terribly suppress the Southwest have also lost their compass. Those who occupy these two extremes have sunken into the dark recesses of fear and political paranoia that can undo a nation if such sentiments are allowed to gestate.”

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The statement continues: “Amotekun. This issue has dominated recent discourse and media headlines. Distilled to its basics, it concerns how best state governments can assist with the safety and security of their residents. This is a matter of serious concern entitled to sober thought. However, it has been turned into a political tug-of-war. Fierce, often unthinking rhetoric, for and against, has crossed the lips of too many Nigerians. More subjective talking than objective thinking has been the fuel of this outburst.

Question those in favour of Amotekun. Most have but the vaguest notion about it. They know few details yet vigorously attribute to its opponents the most negative intentions. Ask those who oppose Amotekun. They are equally ignorant of its provisions. They oppose the initiative not on its merits but merely because it was proposed by their political opponents or because they don’t see an avenue for personal gain from it.

While colourful, the rhetoric has been disconcerting. How people have mishandled this matter demonstrates that we still have far to go in perfecting this democracy. Too much energy has been spent distorting this issue instead of seeking a resolution that supports local enhancement of security while keeping the constitution intact. If this becomes the standard for how we handle disagreements then we will obscure Nigeria’s path forward with our own rubbish.

In this matter, I do not see malign intent in the differences of opinion between the SW Governors as authors of Amotekun and the Attorney-General as the primary law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. Shorn of the overly dramatic language, what lies before us is but a step in the evolution of our federalism. This is an opportunity to more clearly define that federalism; but one cannot attain this better, more functional definition through overblown, emotional language. Objectivity and calmness are required. To a significant degree, the enduring quality of our republic will be established by the sagacity with which we handle disagreements regarding the division of power between federal and state governments. Such disagreements are inevitable. This is not the first. Nor will it be the last. We must devote our energies more toward solving problems rather than amplifying them.

Seeking to fulfil their mandates by helping protect their people, the governors of the Southwest collectively established a program to buttress existing security mechanisms. Seeking to protect the constitution as best he could, the Attorney-General offered his opinion on what he believed the governors have sought to do. No one can blame either party for seeking to fulfil what they genuinely see as their public duty.

Until now, I have deliberately maintained a studied silence regarding Amotekun. Many have tried to goad my swift public reaction. Those who have taken this road did so not because they care about Amotekun or even the people it intends to help protect. They did so knowing this had become a delicate and emotional issue for many. These cynics did so with the adversarial hope that, in haste, I might misspeak or misstep in a manner they could twist to their political advantage.

Such people are possessed of a mercenary aspect that permits them to sacrifice almost anything, even jeopardize the very foundations of our political unity, if they might exact personal gain from the upheaval. In that they know no nobler purpose than their own appetites, we should feel sorry for them. However, we must not allow our sympathies for their barren condition to persuade us that there is worth in their destructive misconduct. They must be left to the consequences of their own devices.

If truly I am a political leader as I am often described, then I have not the luxury of hasty, ill-conceived utterances. There are those who will use inflamed words to spark the passions of others. This may bring transient applause. But when the cheers fade, we shall only have further descended because their words were never inclined toward resolution and long-term improvement but toward short-term popularity and perpetual confrontation.

I believe in this nation and its benign prospects. I dearly love its people, all of them. Over the years of our existence, they have suffered much. Yet they still hold forth with heroic patience and an extraordinary optimism born of strong faith. To these people I owe my best. I shall not treat them cheaply or bandy their emotions like some errant football. The welfare of this good and decent people is my overriding concern.

Equally, I do not cow to the demands of those who press for me to make a premature statement on an important issue. Again, that is a game devised by those who care more about political cleverness than the quality of governance. I chose to talk when my position has been made ripe by a collection of the facts and a reasonable assessment of those facts.”

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