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MBF, Sani caution against stifling opposition voices

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Mailafia

• ‘FG should stop harassing Mailafia, Na’Abba’
Condemnation has continued to trail the alleged move by the Federal Government to stifle opposition voices as being exhibited in the travails of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, and Dr. Obadiah Mailafia over their comments on national issues.

Mailafia had, in an interview with Nigerian Info 93.3FM, said that some repentant Boko Haram insurgents revealed to him that a particular northern governor is a commander of the terrorist group.

The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, demanded that the security agencies should stop further harassment of Mailafia whose disclosure on the Boko Haram insurgency, it said, was in tandem with realities on the ground.

In the statement, the National President of the MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, challenged the security agencies to, instead of playing the ostrich, learn useful tips from the disclosure by facing the real enemies head on.

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The invitation by the police to Mailafia, the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2019 polls, over the interview makes the third within one week, having been invited twice by the Directorate of State Service (DSS).

Bitrus said that after the startling revelations by the Oxford economist and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that attracted outrage from within and outside the country, Mailafia, during his initial appearance at the Jos office of the DSS, insisted that he stood by the media interview.

“A few days later, he was re-invited by the secret police in Jos, and later banned from speaking to the media on the matter.

“Considering these invitations by the DSS to this patriotic Nigerian who is a distinguished son of the Middle Belt, we are worried that after appearing before the secret police twice without a fail, another invitation was issued to him on Friday August 21, 2020 by the Nigeria Police, requesting him to appear before the security organisation on Monday August 24, 2020 in Abuja.

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“In what may be seen as subtle acts of intimidating alternative voices, Na’Abba was also a guest of the secret police in Abuja last Monday when he was grilled over his media interview in which he was quoted to have called for self-determination for Nigerians.

“As a forum representing all ethnic nationalities in the North, for which Mailafia is a member, we call on the police to stop harassing him and Na’Abba whose comments were only meant to serve as wake-up calls for the nation’s security agencies to tackle the raging insurgency and grave insecurity shredding our country,” the MBF said.

Also, a human rights activist and former Senator representing Kaduna Central District, Shehu Sani, cautioned leaders in government against making unwarranted policies that would undermine and sabotage the rights of Nigerians to freely express their opinions.

Sani, who noted that freedom of speech is under serious attacks, admonished all forces to stand in defence of what is right.

The former lawmaker, while interacting with journalists yesterday in Jos, Plateau State capital, said: “The ruling political establishments are beneficiaries of the right of freedom of speech. Those of us who were in the trenches, who fought military regime in the past, did not do so for those who are elected into office to undermine, and to sabotage the right of Nigerians to freely express themselves.”

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He kicked against the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) N5million penalty imposed on Nigeria Info FM for granting the interview to Mailafia.

“The fine imposed on broadcast media is condemnable. There are two types of hate speeches in Nigeria; pro-government hate speech and anti-government hate speech. Pro-government hate speech is the one that is directed at critics of government, while anti-government hate speech is directed at those in positions of power.

“The Bill that is before the National Assembly, if allowed to become law in Nigeria, will be a funeral service to the right of people to fully express themselves. If you have a compliant parliament, a twit judiciary and a weak civil society, the Assembly is going to have a dictatorship in Nigeria. Nigerians can still fight but it is unfortunate that even the civil society today is so weak.”

According to Sani, “It is unfortunate that in Africa today, democracies are not better than military dictatorship because all those components and ingredients and differentials that make democracy unique in its form from dictatorship have systematically and consistently been eroded by intolerant leaders who are opposed to free speech.

“This is what we have now, when people are in opposition they are in support of free speech, they are in support of protest, they are in support of criticisms. The moment they find themselves in power all those things became irritating to them.”

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