By CHIDI NKWOPARA
OWERRI—Although Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has sent an executive bill to the House of Assembly asking it to repeal the contentious part of the Abortion Law Number 12 of 2012, fresh facts emerged yesterday that another aspect of the legislation seeks to bar journalists from reporting proceedings in matters emanating from provisions of the statute.
This has, again, elicited concern from stakeholders in the state, who contended that it was by the government to re-enact the obnoxious Decree 4 of Buhari/Idiagbon military era.
According to Section 40(2)(a) of the law, “no person shall publish in any manner, any information which might, directly or indirectly, reveal the identity of any party to the proceedings”.
Section 40(3) of the law also warned that “any person who contravenes the provisions of this sub-section is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to fine not exceeding N20,000 of both such fine and imprisonment”.
The law, which became operative since May 29 last year, following the assent of Governor Rochas Okorocha, prohibited any publication that would reveal the names of the parties and their witnesses to court proceedings.
Reacting to this fresh fact, a social critic, Mr. Iyke Ibeh, described it as “most unfortunate, especially in the light of the Freedom of Information Act signed by President Gooodluck Jonathan”.
He wondered why those who crafted the law thought that they could not only stop the public from getting information about happenings around them but also brought in from the back door the draconian anti-press Decree Number 4 foisted on Nigerians by the Buhari/Idiagbon military regime.
“Why should those who crafted the controversial law starve the people of vital information? This ugly provision is another way of re-introducing the draconian Decree Number 4 enacted by the Buhari/Idiagbon military junta. It cannot work in this dispensation,” Ibeh said.
In his own reaction, an Owerri-based lawyer, Mr. Kissinger Ikeokwu, said that section of the law was offensive to the right of citizens to information.
His words: “Why do they want to gag the press? They probably forgot that the Freedom of Information Act is in place. This section of the law offends the right of citizens to information and ought to be repealed.”