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SERAP seeks UN’s intervention on bill against media, civil society


House of Representatives

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), yesterday appealed to three United Nations Special Rapporteurs to establish a commission that would monitor the activities of civil society, labour, community based organisations and the media in the country.

The group made the call following an alleged repressive bill in the National Assembly, adding the commission, if set up, should supervise, de-register and pre-approve civil society groups.

It sent the appeal to Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

SERAP urged them to “put meaningful pressure particular on the the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to immediately withdraw the
repressive bill.

It also urged the Special Rapporteurs to “prevail on the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo not to sign the bill into law; and on the House of Representatives and the Senate to exercise their legislative powers for good governance.

“They should ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations in line with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) and government’s international human rights obligations and commitments.”

The organisation said in the appeal dated July 29, 2017 that, “the sole objective of the House of Representatives is to weaken and delegitimise the work of independent and credible civil society.

“If adopted, the bill, which is copied from Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda, would have a chilling effect, not only on expressions of peaceful dissent by the citizens but also on the legitimate work of NGOs and individual human rights defenders and activists scrutinizing corruption in the National Assembly and exposing human rights violations by the government.”

The appeal, signed by SERAP’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, read: “The bill, sponsored by Umar Buba Jibril, Deputy Leader, PDP: Kogi State), if passed by the Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by Osinbajo, would curtail the rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the bill is by far the most dangerous piece of legislation in the country in terms of its reach and devastating consequences, not only for the work of civil society, but also the effective enjoyment of constitutionally and internationally recognised human rights of the citizens.

“The bill will devastate the country’s civil society for generations to come and turn it into a government puppet.”

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