Concerns continue to mount in Nigeria that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has remained in violation of human rights of citizens. A recent nationwide protest called by the #RevolutionNow movement to mark its first year anniversary was high-handedly cracked by security forces in the country. Images emerging from the protest showed peaceful protesters being brutally beaten by combined forces of the Police, Army, Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) operatives sent out in their numbers to stop the protests. The #RevolutionNow movement came into prominence when its founder, Omoyele Sowore led its first protest on August 5, 2019. That protest was also brutally suppressed and Sowore arrested and detained, even in disobedience to several court orders granting him bail, until he was freed in December 2019. Although he was released on bail, the conditions of bail remain harsh. Sowore is restricted from travel outside Abuja.
President Buhari’s administration has on several occasions tried to suppress citizens’ freedom of expression, association and right to peaceful assembly by muzzling criticisms against the administration using State institutions as tools of intimidation. There have been several reports of arrests and illegal detention of individuals who have spoken up against government actions. Some State governments also seem to have taken a cue from this to treat persons who criticise their administration in the same way. Expressions of dissatisfaction from citizens on how the country is being run are often ignored, or brazenly opposed using State might. Nigerians are concerned that not only will their demands remain unmet but that they may be unable to voice those demands for fear of repercussions by the government, a situation that adequately reflects the saying ‘suffering in silence.’
It will be recalled that Nigerians have vehemently pushed against the Hate Speech bill and the Social media bill, which sought to repress several fundamental human rights. Meanwhile, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed announced the increase of hate speech fine to N5million from N500,000 in the National Broadcasting Code for broadcasting agencies. It would seem that the government is bent on stifling free speech at all cost. More worrisome, is the fact that the term ‘hate speech’ is not clearly defined by any known law.