The Newspaper Proprietors ‘ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) has condemned the military clampdown on Daily Trust offices in Abuja, Lagos and Maiduguri, saying the action “was clearly unconstitutional, without due process and an act of self help” by the Nigerian Army.
This was contained in a statement on Monday from NPAN, the umbrella body of newspaper publishers in Nigeria, and signed by its Executive Secretary, Feyi Smith.
The group said that the military siege on Daily Trust over the weekend and the arrest of its editor and reporter in addition to seizure of computers disrupted the operation of the newspaper.
The statement noted that despite the unwholesome raid was called off on the order of the Presidency, and the Army’s explanation that its action was warranted by the violation of the Official Secret Act by the newspaper giving prior notice of military strategy and tactics to Boko Haram insurgents, it said “the siege left in its trail panic and anger reminiscent of the military era brutalisation of the press and the people.”
It recalled that “the last time in this constitutional dispensation when the Army violated constitutional guarantee of free speech was in June 2014 when the logistics for distribution of newspapers was wantonly disrupted and newspapers confiscated across the country on spurious allegation that materials “with grave security implications were being moved across the country through newsprint related consignments.””
It added: “That action warranted an apology and payment of token atonement to the newspaper houses by the Federal Government, although same was later criminalised and newspapers made to make refunds to the EFCC.
“The weekend siege on the Daily Trust newspaper premises, was clearly unconstitutional, without due process and an act of self help.
“Additionally, it showed a poor appreciation of the advancement in information dissemination in the global village where news is disseminated at the touch of a keyboard and not necessarily in a fixed address.
“This is 2019 and those who gave the vexatious order ought to know better.
“The NPAN condemns, in very strong terms, the siege on Daily Trust, the arrest and detention of its staff as well as seizure of its computers.”
It also cautioned the military, especially the Nigerian Army against intimidating the press, saying “where an infraction is alleged, the best option is to follow due process and civility; not kneejerk, not intimidation and spread of fear in the civil society.”
“We have gone too far in search of law and order regime than to countenance such display of raw power and emotion over due process,” the statement noted.