Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), has subtly clamoured for the return of the notorious Decree No. 2 of 1984 – under which persons were detained without trial for “security reasons” during the military era.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon on what he called false publications in the media regarding him and the CCT, Umar said that “journalists should be punished” for publishing falsehood.
The CCT chairman singled out a story in one of the national newspapers where it was said that the tribunal had adjourned the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki indefinitely.
“It is a criminal offence”
“If not that we are under a democratic setting, I would have advocated for the retention of Decree No. 2”
“Just because they want to sell their papers and make money they publish falsehood”
Kanu Agabi, lead counsel of Saraki, intervened, calling for calm.
He advised the press to ensure that they do reports that would promote peace in the country.
The tribunal, thereafter, adjourned to June 15 for continuation of trial.
The military government of Muhammadu Buhari made the Nigerian State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree No 4 in 1984.
The regime jailed its critics, as in the case of, afro-beat king Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. He was arrested on September 4, 1984 at the airport as he was about to embark on an American tour.
Relying on Decree Number 2, the government sentenced Fela to five years in prison.
In 1984, Buhari passed Decree Number 4, the Protection Against False Accusations Decree, considered by scholars as the most repressive press law ever enacted in Nigeria.
Section 1 of the law provided that “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement […] which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offense under this Decree”.
The law further stated that offending journalists and publishers will be tried by an open military tribunal, whose ruling would be final and unappealable in any court and those found guilty would be eligible for a fine not less than 10,000 naira and a jail sentence of up to two years.
Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian were among the journalists who were tried under the decree.
The decree was abrogated in May 1999 by Abdulsalami Abubakar, shortly before handing over to an elected government.