The National Publicity Secretary of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, and constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), wednesrday took a swipe at the military over its pledge to commence the monitoring of social media activities by Nigerians.
The move to monitor social media activities came on the heels of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nationwide address where he threatened to crack down on social media activities which he said portend danger to the nation’s unity.
As a follow up to the president’s view, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) through Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, said plans were underway to tame anti-government and anti-military activities and commentary on social media.
In an interview, Enenche was quoted to have said: “In the military, we are now taking on it more seriously than ever. We have our strategic media centres that monitor the social media to be able to sieve out and react to all the ones that will be anti-government, anti-military, (and) anti-security.
“We will tackle them appropriately with appropriate responses. Ahead of that, we are also proactive. We have measures in place, scientific measures to be able to sieve this information and also to get the public and let them know that some of this information they are getting is not genuine and their objective is an anti-corporate existence of this country,” Enenche maintained.
But speaking to THISDAY, Odumakin explained that there was no constitutional backing for the military to embark on such activities.
He said: “Have they defeated Boko Haram bombing Borno? There are much more important things the military need to do now.
“They should go and bring Shekau; they declared him dead several times, but he is still alive on social media. If the military wants to monitor social media, they should go after Shekau.”
According to Odumakin, “Any attempt to use force to suppress citizens would not be good. I task the military to concentrate on terror and herdsmen killing people.
“It is very important to ask them if we are in a democracy. If we have constitutional rule, which rule empowers the military, even the 1999 Constitution, they should show the provision where the military monitor Nigerians and issues on social media?,” he asked.
On his part, Ozekhome said: “I do not subscribe to the monitoring of social media activities by the Nigerian military and DHQ, as this constitutes a violent and blatant violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
Coming from a government that has covered its ineptitude with mindless repression, intolerance and allergy to opposition, criticism and plurality of alternative voices, such monitoring would further muzzle the people, especially the opposition.
“It is reminiscent of the then General Buhari’s Decree 4, which criminalized truth if such truth was embarrassing to the government.
“This government makes no presence of yearning for the dark days and locust years of military tyranny and dictatorship where the citizens, under WAI, were openly humiliated and flogged on their bare buttocks. May God never bring back such gory days of dehumanisation,” Ozekhome stated.
* Source: Media Rights Agenda