The federal government has dismissed the allegations of corruption and human rights abuses against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The government said that accusations of corruption and violation of basic freedoms were simply borne out of “confusion” and “misrepresentation” of the situation in Nigeria.
In an interview with Tim Sebastian, DW’s Conflict Zone, yesterday, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that the Buhari “administration, in particular, has been very sensitive to the issue of human rights.”
Mohammed, who is in London to discuss the state of the nation and the steps being taken by the government to address the concerns of international bodies and the civil society, rejected the idea that the government had “covered up for any damaging evidence against it.”
When confronted with human rights violations against the administration, the minister said that “Nigeria has been locked in a war of attrition with Boko Haram for almost a decade. And even then, the military has been very careful to ensure that as much as possible, rights are not violated.”
The minister said that there is no policy that is targeted against people’s rights in Nigeria.
In his response to the allegations that the government increased pressure on opposition media houses, including raiding and detaining journalists for treason; suspension of television and radio stations’ licenses and a crackdown on the social media, Mohammed said that “when it comes to freedom of the press we are doing extremely well. If a newspaper runs foul of the law, it must face the consequences.”
‘’But when you have close to 100 newspapers in a country and you sighted one that was shut down for a while in a year, I think you should be fair to us that we have a robust free press,’’ he said.
The minister noted that many of the people making such frivolous claims don’t even know the ecosystem of the media in Nigeria.
Mohammed said: “Virtually all the major newspapers in Nigeria are owned by individuals. And I can tell you that there are 12 national newspaper but a newspaper case cannot be used to note that the government is trying to stifle the media.’’
On the controversial Hate Speech Bill, the minister said that “what is much shocking is the ignorance of people, who don’t understand the separation of powers.”
He said that the bill was not submitted by the executive but the legislative arm of government.
Mohammed insisted that the government doesn’t intervene in such bills until they are passed to the president for assent.
‘’The only thing that can be done by the president is not to assent to controversial bills. But the law has not been passed. People rush hastily to judgement. We don’t micromanage the parliament,’’ he stated.
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