The decision of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to criticize the proscription of the Boko Haram and Ansaru terrorist groups by the Federal Government has attracted rebuke from both the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party.
The ACN had, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Sunday said the proscription was capable of stiffing the press and hampering the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
The opposition party said the order made it easy for an “an increasingly intolerant government to clamp down on the opposition.”
It had also appealed to the media professional bodies to challenge the order in court to save journalists from long jail terms awaiting them for simply carrying out their constitutional duties.
In separate statements both issued on Monday, the Presidency said the opposition political party’s action showed desperation, while the PDP accused the ACN of giving “tactical support” to the outlawed groups.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe said the ACN’s action showed that it lacked sound judgment in the matter, wondering whether if the opposition were to be in power, it would not do anything to stop the activities of the two sects.
He said, “What its present action suggests is that were the ACN in power, it would have done nothing to stop the needless destruction of lives and property by the terrorist group proscribed by the Federal Government.
“Are we to believe then that the ACN is unhappy with present peace and calm enjoyed by residents of the states under emergency rule?
“Are we to conclude that Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his party are uncomfortable with the fact that following the intervention of our military, that children have returned to school and that markets have reopened for business?
“This latest uproar by the ACN about the order affecting or circumscribing press freedom is a blatant lie. It is not supported by reason, logic or law.”
In its reaction, the PDP who spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh also accused the ACN of “trying to use the press as a subterfuge to hide its support for insurgents” and to whittle the current efforts by the Federal Government to end acts of terrorism in the country.
The ruling party said contrary to the claims by the ACN, no part of the Presidential Order proscribing terrorists groups, directly or indirectly violated any provision of the constitution or impinged on the freedom of the press in the country.
Metuh, in the statement, described the allegation by the ACN, that the order was aimed at gagging the press, as despicable and a clear indication of how far the opposition party could go to distort facts to support violence and cause disaffection among Nigerians.
He said, “This deliberate distortion of facts clearly betrays ACN’s support for such groups as well as the heinous attempt to whittle efforts by the Federal Government and well-meaning Nigerians to end insurgency in the country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, no section of the order stiffed the press; violated or seeks to violate any provision of the constitution. Instead the order reinforced the provisions of the constitution guaranteeing the security and welfare of all Nigerians.”