The Prominent Pro-democracy and Non-Governmental organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) is monitoring the development regarding the reported invasion of the Premises of the national office of Daily Trust Newspapers in Abuja and its regional office in Maiduguri in Borno State.
At first when our attention was called to it we expressed shock that this could happen in an era whereby the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has entered the annals of our national history as the head of the Army that significantly improved relations between the civilian and military citizens in Nigeria with the institutionalization of a full department to coordinate civil and military relations which is headed by a senior General with offices spread across all the command structures of the military establishment.
The current Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf it was who entered into partnership with numerous credible civil society platforms and professional groups aimed at the mainstreaming of the respect of the fundamental human rights in the organizational and modus vivendi/operandi of the Nigerian Army.
So when this information reached us, we made extensive contacts with people who should know in and out of government institutions and we learnt that a certain report detailing a planned internal military operations by the Nigerian military in the ongoing Counter terrorism war may have caused the badblood between the usually friendly Nigerian Army and the ever responsible media in Nigeria.
We acknowledge that the Daily Trust is one amongst the very best in terms of professionalism and ethical conducts in carrying out their jobs. Indeed, most media analysts rate the Daily Trust as one of the very few Newspaper institutions that has supported the current administration and has consistently supported the ingoing counterterror war. This report detailing proposed military operations could have been avoided in the interest of national security and in line with the social responsibility role of the fourth estate of the realm. There is little doubts that the report may have destroyed the essence of the combat operations been panned by the Nigerian Army. The Nigerian Army we must admit has done so much and paid supreme sacrifices to work towards ensuring the preservation of the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
“HURIWA acknowledges the expert opinion that national security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power.”
“The concept developed mostly in the United States after World War II. Initially focusing on military might, it now encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the non-military or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society.”
Furthermore, “HURIWA hereby restate a universal view that in order to possess national security, a nation needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security.”
“Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, multinational corporations and non-governmental organizations; some authorities include natural disasters and events causing severe environmental damage in this category.”
“Measures taken to ensure national security include: using diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats marshaling economic power to facilitate or compel cooperation maintaining effective armed forces implementing civil defense and emergency preparedness measures (including anti-terrorism legislation) ensuring the resilience and redundancy of critical infrastructure using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and to protect classified information using counterintelligence services or secret police to protect the nation from internal threats.”
On the same vein, we know that the media has a responsibility to inform, educate and entertain the citizenry and to check abuses in the polity. Both the media and military institutions are subject to rule of law.
As members of the Human rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), to therefore read in the middle of the Day that Men of the Nigerian Army invaded Daily Trust head office in Abuja after taking over the Newspaper’s regional office in Maiduguri, Borno state and arrested the regional editor, Uthman Abubakar and a reporter, Ibrahim Sawab indeed came to us as a rude shock.
Take note that we have already mentioned that in the last three years the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army has demonstrated maturity and commitments towards domestication and mainstreaming of virtually all international human rights provisions into their operational manuals and that pragmatic efforts have been made by the hierarchy to ensure that the operatives respect the fundamental human rights of citizens and the soldiers. Several indicted human rights violators have been sanctioned even as many more of such cases are in their different stages of adjudication through the instrumentality of internal conflict resolution mechanisms and the mechanics of the human rights investigative desks set up in all military formations by the Chief of Army staff under the supervision of the department of civil and military relations.
We read that the soldiers forced the gate open at the head office and drove in with three Jokic vans loaded with armed soldiers just as everyone in the building was asked to move to the ground floor while they move computers. We are making efforts to verify these accounts and to urge for restraints.
We hereby urge the military authority to show greater restraint and embark on the search for legal and or amicable resolution of whatever conflict may have arisen between the military institution and the media. The media workers arrested should be released forthwith.
We acknowledge that section 22 of the 1999 constitution confers on the media the right to serve as ombudsmen and gate keepers for the preservation of good governance and the respect of the fundamental human rights as enshrined in chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution but at the same time we acknowledge the strategic place of the military in line with section 217 of the Nigerian constitution in which case the territorial integrity of the Country ought to be protected by all means.
Section 22 of the Nigerian constitution stated thus: “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”
Section 217 (1) and (2) stated:- “There shall be an armed forces for the federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly; The federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of – defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air; suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the president, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
The threat against the corporate existence of Nigeria by the armed terrorists of Boko Haram terrorists and other terrorist elements affiliated to Islamic state of Iraq and Syria is grave so all hands ought to be on deck to defeat the terrorists once and for all. The media must guide against any sensational reportage that is capable of undermining or ruining the strategic operations of the gallant soldiers who bear the brunts of waging this war so that our lives can be preserved and protected.
Although the Nigerian Army under the Constitution have no judicial powers of the federation which in section 6 is domiciled with the Judicial arm of the federation and therefore couldn’t have embarked on the use of measures that may be deemed as resorting to self-help measures rather than use the instruments of the laws to press charges, we think it is wrong professionally and a danger to the sanctity of our national security for the media to leak a planned military operation against a terror group that enjoys the backing of ISIS.
The media must exercise the greatest discretion and report responsibly because the corporate health and existence of Nigeria is endangered and indeed we are indirectly in an era of enforced emergency created by the dare devil terrorist activities of boko haram terrorists.
We are planning series of advocacy activities in the coming days to promote partnership between the media and the military authority so the rampaging boko haram terrorists are not in any way aided to destabilize and destroy our fatherland. We urge our soldiers never to get distracted or dis discouraged.
Whatever professional sacrifices the media must give to preserve the sanctity of the territorial integrity of Nigeria and conserve national security must be done now that Nigeria faces the greatest threats against our very existence as a nation and a people. The haste to write sensational page 1 story to capture the imagination of buyers and advertisers must be mitigated by the urgency of the now to preserve our national security because if there is no Nigeria there will be no Nigerian media.
We will also be writing to the ever friendly Chief of Army Staff to implore him to continue to encourage efforts at cementing greater partnership and synergy between the civilians and the military.
The time for the media to engage in responsible security reporting is now until the boko haram terrorists are degraded, decimated and defeated. We urge the military to use legal means to resolve issues arising by way of conflicts between media workers and the military because both segments of the society ought to become partners in progressive nation building enterprises. The World is watching as rightly stated by President Muhammadu Buhari during the presentation of the 2019 budget to the National Assembly recently. God bless our Country Nigeria.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; National Coordinator; Human rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
TEXT OF A MEDIA CONFERENCE TODAY JANUARY 7TH 2019.