Action Congress of Ni-geria, ACN, has said that the recent proscription order against Boko Haram and Ansaru, desirable as it may be in tackling the terrorist organisations, violates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by stifling the press and tampering with the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
A statement in Ila-Orangun, yesterday, by ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the order also makes it easy for an increasingly intolerant government to clamp down on the opposition, which its sees more as an irritant .
In the alternative, ACN called on the Federal Government to clarify the knotty and vague areas of the open-ended order, that may end up punishing journalists and infringing on the civil liberties of the citizens more than it will curtail activities of the sects.
The party said: ‘’Against the background of insinuations in government circles, let us be clear that we do not condone the activities of these sects that have killed and maimed innocent Nigerians and turned a section of the country into a battle field.
“Terrorism in all its ramifications is condemnable, and no responsible government will allow any group, no matter its name, grievances or ideology, to carry out terrorist acts unchecked.
“But we believe that whatever action government takes— even in an emergency— must pass the constitutional test, especially since the relevant sections of the Constitution have not been suspended.”
It said the offensive section of the order is Section 5 (1), which prescribes a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years ‘’for any person who knowingly, in any manner, directly or indirectly, solicits or renders support for the commission of an act of terrorism or to a terrorist group.”
ACN said “support,” as defined by the order, includes “incitement to commit a terrorist act through the Internet, or any electronic means or through the use of printed materials or through the dissemination of terrorist information.
“Is this subsection not in conflict with Chapter II Section 22 of the Nigeria Constitution which says ‘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?’
“By stifling the press, is the order not abridging a part of the fundamental human rights guaranteed every citizen under Chapter Four of the Nigerian Constitution in Section 39 (1), which states thus: ‘Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference?’”
ACN said the Nigerian government must take a cue from what obtains in other countries, especially in the USA, which are also battling terrorism, adding that the media in those countries have continued to report freely on activities of the global terrorist organisation, Al-Qaeda, despite the horrendous attacks it has carried out in the US and Europe, among others.