Group of human rights CSOs take the fight against the NGO Regulation Bill to court

Association

As reported previously on the Monitor, the draft NGO Regulatory Commission Bill is currently under consideration in the National Assembly. The Bill has been heavily criticised as it contains restrictive provisions and could potentially "endanger constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, assembly, speech as well as freedom of conscience and religion". The National Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the National Assembly on 26th September outlining its opposition to the Bill, stating that:

"The National Human Rights Commission is of the view that there is no need for the establishment of an NGO Regulatory Commission as most of the roles and functions ascribed to this ‘Commission’ in the proposed bill falls within the mandate of Corporate Affairs Commission and other Agencies referred to in the bill". 

In addition, 23 human rights organisations under the umbrella of the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) filed a suit on 3rd November at the Federal High Court Abuja seeking for the NGO Bill to be declared unlawful and unconstitutional. The group asked the court to determine whether a judicial order can stop the National Assembly from further deliberating the Bill, as the group says that "they not need to wait for the Bill to be passed into law before challenging it and that once it can be shown that the Bill is likely to infringe on their rights if passed into law". 

Expression

On 12th September 2017, about 20 soldiers raided the premises of the state secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists Secretariat in Umuahia, Abia State. The soldiers beat up and threatened journalists and smashed their phones and Ipads on the ground, alleging that the journalists took pictures of Operation Python Dance exercise of the Nigerian Army, who were parading the streets on a show of strength. A contingent of 200 soldiers were reportedly on their way to conduct the Operation in the house of the self-proclaimed Biafa separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

On 16th September, the governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, banned two journalists of This Day and Vanguard newspapers - Amby Uneze and Chidi Nkwopara - from covering activities at the seat of government, declaring them "enemies of the government". Okorocha said the two were fond of publishing uncomplimentary reports about his administration, but failed to cite any specific breach of ethics by the journalists. 

On 17th October,  judicial authorities in Nigeria denied a group of journalists access to a hearing that was taking place at the High Court in Abuja. Officials of the Department of State Services prevented reporters from entering the court room, stating that they had been instructed to keep the media out of the courtroom. The hearing related to the case of Nnamadi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who is charged with terrorism and leading an illegal secessionist movement. Earlier this year on 10th January, journalists were prevented from attending and covering another hearing on the case.

On 26th October, photojournalist Ikechukwu Ibe of the Daily Trust newspaper was assaulted by a captain of the army in Abuja. In addition, his camera was confiscated and the memory card of the camera removed and destroyed. Ibe was taking pictures of a vehicle that ran into a restaurant in Jabi area of Abuja when the assault occured.

Peaceful Assembly 

Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, a pro-independence group, and its supporters have staged a series of protests across the country and abroad by diaspora, including at the UN General Assembly on 19th September, against the military operation, Operation Python Dance, in the southeast of the country. Counter protests have also been held, including a protest by the Stand Up For Peace Movement at the embassy of the U.S. in Abuja on 28th September, over statements made by a U.S. spokesperson against the government's labeling of IPOB as a terrorist group. Another protest on 5th October took place at the British High Commission to demand the extradition of Nnamdu Kanu of the IPOB, with protesters alleging Kanu is in the UK.