14 June 2018

Nigeria: Groups Fault Suspension of Schoolteacher in Niger State

Abuja — Civil rights groups, Paradigm Initiative and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria have faulted the suspension of Baba Mohammed Wanigi, a schoolteacher with Agaie local government in Niger State over his alleged criticism of government officials, including President Muhammad Buhari.

The organisations, in separate statements alleged that the embattled teacher was suspended based on his active participation in politics and hate speech on social media.

According to the Director of Programs, Paradigm Initiative, Tope Ogundipe, the suspension was allegedly based on Wanigi's constant criticism of government officials and their activities.

"It is obvious that this act by the council is not only morally reprehensible but patently unconstitutional. Section 39 of the constitution provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference. This is a most basic right for citizens in a democracy," Ogundipe said.

"Every Nigerian is a key stakeholder in matters concerning Nigeria and no group or body may constitute itself as an authority to preclude its members from active participation in politics. It makes no sense whatsoever, neither does it matter that a meeting was held with the 169 head teachers of Agaie Local Government Education Authority to decide against active participation in politics.

The council does not have the authority to overrule the constitution or limit constitutionally-guaranteed rights," Ogundipe added.

On his part, Program Manager, EiE Nigeria, Adeolu Adekola said the group is concerned about politicians under the guise of hate speech to repress citizens and the opposition as the nation moves towards the 2019 elections.

He said: "We recall the frivolous Petition bill 2015 sponsored by Senator Bala Ibn Na'Allah had a clause that sought to regulate the use of social media and short message service (SMS) in the country. This was resisted and in May 2016, the bill was withdrawn and thrown out."

We therefore call on the council to rescind its decision and reinstate unconditionally, Baba Mohammed Wanigi.

The groups also demanded that an apology should be made to the teacher for the gross infringement of his fundamental right to freedom of expression.

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