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CSOs Decry Threat To Freedom Of Expression, Association



Civil Society Groups in Nigeria have expressed deep concerns over what they described as a threat to civic right to expression and association.

This is against the backdrop of recent attacks by security personnel preventing protesters from, and assaults against journalists.

They described it as an infringement on citizens’ rights to association, while appealing for the maintenance of a safe space for people to voice their grievances without government interference.

In an event tagged Speak, in Abuja recently, two groups, Oxfam and Connected Development, gathered youths across board to demand for national unity and peaceful coexistence in what they described as a safe space to speak.

According to the groups, as 2019 elections draw near,there is need to strengthen the freedom of expression and association as an integral component of democracy.

Giving imperative for such gathering, the Head of Public Engagement, OXFAM Nigeria, Abdulazeez Musa, said with recent assaults against journalists and protesters, there is a need to create a safe civil space for people to express themselves.

“The civic space in Nigeria has increasingly be closing,depends on how you see it.

“The fact that we have some bills in the National Assembly trying to restrict the use of social media, or journalists being jailed for a report is scary.

“As well as people being stopped from protesting peacefully is worrisome.

“So with this alternative space, we intend to engage the citizens on their rights as well as responsibilities” he stated.

Founder of Connected Development, Hamza Lawal stated that engaging citizens in public discourse, would increase government’s accountability, while calling on youths to shun political thuggery in the discharge of their civic responsibilities.

“‘Speak’ event is a global movement to encourage youths especially to engage in topical debates and familiarize them with important demands,to look out for in candidates of their choice, “

We want them to freely express themselves and help reinforce good ideas and dissuade wrong perceptions, as well as encouraging use the power of the social media in particular to press for changes”,he added.