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2019 NAJUC Conference: Fears By The Ruling Elite Of The Consequences Of A Truly Free Press Is Misplaced - EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA

(L-R) Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Bode Ojajuni, former PRO, Lagos State Police Command, and currently Area Commander, Area ‘A’, Lion Building,  a recipient of NAJUC award, Barrister Morufu Ajani Animashaun, Legal Officer Force CID, Annex, Alagbon-Ikoyi, Lagos, the representative of Ojora of Ijoraland, High Chief Akeem Ojora and Barrister Animashaun’s wife, Mojisola, during the presentation of ‘Best Criminal Prosecutor 2019’ award to Barrister Animashaun by Lagos NAJUC on Tuesday.

BY FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU

MUSON CENTRE, LAGOS STATE, NIGERIA -  A Lagos-based human rights crusader and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa on Tuesday declared that there are sufficient laws to restrain the careless use of the social media at every point in time and as such the fears by the ruling elite of the consequences of a truly free press is misplaced.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa aslo insisted that absolute press freedom is highly desirable for Nigeria to achieve the desired growth.

Speaking while delivering a paper at the 2019 annual lecture of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC), Lagos branch, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa argued that the concept of press freedom is well entrenched in the laws of Nigeria, while the Nigerian Constitution apart from imposing a duty on the media to hold government accountable to the people has also made provision for the freedom and rights of the press to carry out the onerous task in aid of nation building.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa who maintained that the media holds an important role in any society as it represents the conscience and values of a people, explained that the press is a veritable link of information exchange between the people and their government.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa charged the Nigerian government "to develop the political will to providing structures and policies towards promoting the use of abundant existing legislations to protect the right of citizens to press freedom.

“It is pertinent to note that the issue of press freedom in Nigeria is of great importance, as one would observe from Section 39 of the Constitution, that it falls within the realm of fundamental rights codified in Chapter IV of the Constitution. 

"The import of this, is that press freedom is an inalienable right which no government can derogate from or deny her citizens.

“The advent of the new social media has aided Nigerians like all other citizens of the world, in giving full expression to the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and right to hold and disseminate opinion on any matter.

“The advent of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others in that category has empowered Nigerians especially young people to either expose various forms of malfeasance prevalent in society or to mobilize for causes which they believe can better their lives.

“It is conceded that there are challenges of fake news, hate speech, defamation and other vices associated with the use of social media. 

"However, is that enough justification to further regulate the already regulated use of social media through the enactment of regulations, which sometimes violate constitutional provisions? 

There exists an abundance of laws already put in place which are sufficient to curb any fear that government officials and other well meaning Nigerians may have."

Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), the Attorney-General of Lagos State, and Commissioner for Justice reiterated the determination of government to ensure the thriving of press freedom.

Represented by Dr. Jide Martins, a Director in the Ministry of Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) posited that the state must act in a robust manner to ensure that press freedom is not abused and used to advance constructive criticism.

According to Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), "It is pivotal that all citizens exercise and enjoys their right to freedom of expression, press freedom and association within the parameters of the law and other citizens’ rights are not breached.

“Some of the advantages of social media are also some of its bane. The fact that people can assume a false identity and disseminate information that can potentially cause offence, harm and breach of national security is of great concern."

The Chairman, Lagos branch of NAJUC, Peter Fowoyo, suggested that the press must be free all encumbrances in order to discharge its duty effectively to members of the public.

He called on the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), the Nigerian Guilds of Editors (NGE) and the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) to recognize the impact of beat associations and see them as partners in progress.

Peter Fowoyo said, "We are in consternation as to why an informed union such as the NUJ, without a valid court order and the moral right, proscribed beat associations as guaranteed under our laws.”

While the conference lasted, awards were presented to individuals in recognition of their achievements in their chosen careers.

Among the recipients of the awards are; Chief Emeka Okpoko (SAN), who received the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team of the Year 2019; Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa (SAN), who received the best human rights lawyer 2019; Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, who received the best financial crime prosecutor of 2019, Mr. Morufu A. Animashaun, received Best Criminal Prosecutor of 2019 and Mr. Kayode Oyekanmi, who received the best public sector officer of 2019.

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