Election results challenged; civil society reacts with protests
Following the February and March 2023 elections, Nigerian civil society organisations held protests demanding that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) review the election results, as the elections were conducted in an atmosphere of violence and intimidation. The Free Nigeria Movement organised a peaceful protest on 21st March 2023 in Abuja, calling for the resignation of INEC chairperson Mahmood Yakubu. In addition, opposition politicians from the People's Democratic Party and the Labour Party filed petitions challenging the INEC's final declaration of the election results.
The National Human Rights Commission had received 450 cases of human rights violations in connection with the elections. In May, the Nigerian Court of Appeal started hearings on the challenges from civil society and political parties to the INEC election results, which put Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner.
At least 28 journalists harassed, beaten, denied access while covering Nigerian state electionshttps://t.co/yXU0uXKeqq— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) March 22, 2023
Attacks on journalists
On 30th March 2023, soldiers allegedly associated with the Nigerian army attacked International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) journalist Sinafi Omanga while he was covering a situation for the ICIR’s Eye on The Street programme. On 4th April 2023, the Coalition of Whistle-Blowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) condemned the attack on Omanga and urged the government to ensure the safety of press workers.
On 17th April 2023, an unidentified police officer attacked Daily Trust photojournalist Benedict Uwalaka while he was covering a protest at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) terminal in Lagos.
Gubernational and state assembly elections March 2023: press violations
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 28 journalists and media workers were obstructed, harassed or attacked while covering gubernatorial and state assembly elections across Nigeria on 18th and 19th March 2023. Some of the press freedom incidents documented by CPJ include:
- On 18th March 2023, at least 10 unidentified individuals punched and used sticks to beat a TV crew of Arise TV - correspondent Oba Adeoye, camera operator Opeyemi Adenihun and driver Yusuf Hassan - after the crew used a drone at voting stations in Lagos state. Security agents stationed nearby did not intervene when the crew was attacked but confiscated the drone.
- Dozens of unidentified men accused Asshiru Umar, editor of Premier Radio, of filming them, took the journalist’s phone and stomped on it at a pollingl station in Daladanchi, Kano State. The men subsequently beat Umar with their hands, sticks and stones, and attempted to stab him.
- At least five unidentified individuals, including a person with an axe, chased a group of at least ten journalists, including PM News journalist Adejoke Adeleye and Newsflagship reporter Yusuf Adeleke, after they became aware they were filming a voting station in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
- On 19th March 2023, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission mandated four security officers to prevent at least six journalists from accessing a voting collation centre in Kano. One of the journalists affected, Ayo Adenaiye of Arise TV, told CPJ that the officials had a list excluding many journalists from entering the collation centre.
As reported previously on the Monitor, at least 14 journalists were attacked, threatened, harassed or detained while covering Nigeria’s presidential and federal elections on 25th February 2023, as documented by CPJ.
Big win for press freedom in Nigeria as court bars regulator from sanctioning networkshttps://t.co/f5beHYLzkC— Media Foundation for West Africa (@TheMFWA) May 12, 2023
Court restrains national broadcasting regulator from imposing fines
In a more positive development, on 10th May 2023, the Federal Court in Abuja ruled that the national broadcasting regulator, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), does not have the judicial powers to impose penalties on broadcast stations, and therefore has barred the regulator - via a perpetual injunction - from fining broadcast stations. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), CSO Media Rights Agenda (MRA) had sued the NBC.
However, prior to the court ruling, NBC had imposed, on 27th March 2023, a fine of five million nairas (approximately 6,291 USD) on Channels TV over comments made during a broadcast interview on 22nd March 2023 with vice-presidential candidate for the Labour Party in the February presidential elections, Datti Baba-Ahmed. The NBC claims the interview violated the broadcasting code as it contained offensive references to people and organisations that could encourage public disorder. Baba-Ahmed had reportedly said that it would be unconstitutional to swear in the elected president due to electoral irregularities.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) said the NBC decision was “arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional”, and initiated a lawsuit.