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NIGERIA

Government rejects UK Religious Freedom Report on Nigeria

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The Federal Government has rejected what it called “the new levels of misrepresentation in the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom Report on Nigeria”.

Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, made the government’s position known in a statement in Abuja on Friday.

The report released by the UK based Group on International Religious Freedom Report on Nigeria on June 15, had alleged that the Nigerian government was allowing armed Islamist groups to kill, maim and displace Christians, through a systematic cleansing.

The report, entitled“Nigeria – Unfolding Genocide?”, painted a picture of an ongoing religious/ethnic cleansing going on in Nigeria, with the government doing almost nothing to end the reign of terror, which it said was particularly targeted at northern Christians.

“Attacks by armed groups of Islamist Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession, and eviction of thousands of Christians,”the report read in part.

The presidential aide, however, condemned the report, saying:“Although it is difficult reading, the statement also acknowledges the importance of accurate, unbiased, depoliticised and truthful information when it comes to understanding the realities and addressing the challenges for those of faith in Nigeria.

“In this regard when uncritical attention is afforded to critics with dubious intentions, it only becomes harder for both the government and people of Nigeria to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve our differences, and uphold what is enshrined in our Constitution and laws: that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’’

According to Shehu, it is clear for all to see that there have, for generations in Nigeria, been tensions between two major religions, Christianity and Islam – and between herders and farmers.

He said the conflict between herders and farmers was informed by struggle for access to ever-decreasing arable and farmland due to a rapidly rising population, temperatures and desertification through global warming.

“Exacerbating those tensions, our nation has also been in recent times and focused within the northern states – subject to vicious and criminal attacks by the terror group Boko Haram.

“In concert with our American and British allies, Nigeria’s military has pushed back the terrorists and largely reduced their capacity over the last five years compared to the previous decade,’’ he insisted.

He maintained that the boko haram sect had been targeting Christians and Churches specifically because they know it drives forward religious and land tensions already existent in the country, saying the sect also attacked mosques and Muslims in the country.

“In the months and years ahead, our President who is Muslim and our Vice President who is an evangelical Christian pastor are irrevocably committed to addressing these multiple and long-term challenges for today and future generations. These include:

– Continuing and increasing Nigeria’s efforts alongside our allies to fully defeat and finally finish Boko Haram, in order to bring security to the north of the country.

– Continuing to seek, negotiate for, and secure the return of all those held hostage and in captivity by the terrorists, regardless of the religious faith or belief.

– Uniting our nation through dialogue organised around respect for differences in religion. Such a programme is already underway under the leadership of the Vice President, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo.

– Addressing, through Joint Federal and State Governments programmes, access to arable farmland – with land mandated both for farmers and herders. The federal government will issue detailed measures regarding this plan and its rollout in the coming weeks

– Countering fake news – particularly on social and digital media – by working with the non-partisan stakeholder community, the National Broadcasting

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NIGERIA

FCT High Court judge, Okeke, is dead

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The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on Tuesday lost one of its judges, Justice Jude Okeke.

Justice Okeke, aged 64, died at the National Hospital in Abuja.

Some court officials, who asked not to be named because they had no authorization to speak on it, said the deceased had complained of chest pain some days ago after which his condition deteriorated.

The spokesperson for the National Hospital, Dr. Tayo Haastrup, confirmed to our correspondent that Justice Okeke died on Tuesday.

Justice Okeke, who until his demise occupied the ninth position in the hierarchy of the FCT High Court judges, handled the corruption case instituted against a retired judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, along with his wife, Olubolade, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi.

Justice Okeke, in a ruling on April 5, 2017, upheld the defendants’ no-case submissions and dismissed the charges.

On February 28, 2018, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of the case which was instituted by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, as speculative.

Justice Okeke hails from Idemili North Local Government Area of Onitsha, Anambra State.

He was called to Bar in 1985 and completed his National Youth Service the following year.

He was in active private practice of Law until he was appointed as a Judge in the FCT High Court in 2007.

He is married with children.

His death reduces the number of FCT High Court judges from 34 to 33.

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NIGERIA

FG raises hate speech fine from N500,000 to N5m

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The Federal Government on Tuesday raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to 5 million naira.

The government also mandated broadcast stations to devote airtime for public education on emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, made this known in Lagos on Tuesday while unveiling the Reviewed Broadcasting Code.

This was contained in a statement by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, titled, ‘Remarks By The Hon. Minister Of Information And Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, At The Unveiling Of The Reviewed Broadcasting Code In Lagos On Tuesday, Aug. 4th, 2020’.

According to the statement made available on the verified social media platforms of the ministry, Mohammed said the amendments were necessitated by a Presidential directive in the wake of the 2019 general elections for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the National Broadcasting Commission as well as the conduct of the various broadcast stations before, during and after elections.

The minister noted that the recommendations were approved by the President, Major General Mohammed Buhari (retd.), to reposition the NBC to better perform its regulatory role in the areas of political broadcasting, local content, coverage of emergencies, advertising, and anti-competitive behaviour.

Mohammed, who explained that section 2h of the NBC Act empowers the commission to establish and disseminate a National Broadcasting Code, said, “There are many desirable provisions in the new Broadcasting Code:

“The provisions on Exclusivity and Monopoly will boost local content and local industry due to laws prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters who intend to create monopolies and hold the entire market to themselves. It will encourage Open Access to premium content.

“The law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts will definitely promote sustainability for the station owners and producers of content.

“The law on the registration of Web Broadcasting grants the country the opportunity to regulate negative foreign broadcasts that can harm us as a nation. Such harms could be in the area of security, protection for minors, protection of human dignity, economic fraud, privacy etc.

“The provision on the responsibility of broadcast stations to devote airtime to national emergencies mandates terrestrial and Pay TV channels to make their services available to Nigerians at times of national emergencies – like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – for their education and enlightenment.

“The provision raising the fine for hate speech from 500,000 Naira to 5 million Naira.”

He added, “The Broadcasting Code is not a static document. As we often say, broadcasting is dynamic. Therefore, even the 6th Edition of the Code shall be reviewed at the appropriate time. But, as it currently stands, the 6th edition and the amendments, which we are unveiling today, remain the regulations for broadcasting in Nigeria.

“For those who still have misgivings about the amendment to the 6th Edition of the Code, we expect you to meet with the regulator and present your views. As I said, there are opportunities for constant review of the Code, but please note that this latest amendment is signed, sealed, and delivered, and we are committed to making it work for the good of the country.”

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NIGERIA

Buhari orders rejig of security operational strategies

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President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the rejig of operational strategies of the nation’s security network to effectively counter the security situation across the country.

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd.), disclosed this to State House Correspondents on Tuesday after the National Security Council meeting held at the State House.

He also revealed that the administration was working on a solution to the security crisis in some parts of the country, saying that the Minister of Defense, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (Rtd), was “working on something” to give effect to President Buhari’s earlier marching orders to service chiefs.

The NSA also disclosed that the council noted that the proliferation of drugs is driving insecurity in the country.

Monguno said the manner of killings of their victims can only mean one thing and that is, the bandits, kidnappers, and terrorists are out of their minds.

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