By Emmanuella Igwe
A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sent an open letter to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State requesting him to immediately halt all further eviction and demolition of Fresh FM building and to show full respect for the safety and dignity of residents and owner of Fresh FM.
The group also urged the governor to immediately begin repairs of the Fresh FM building and to adequately compensate the radio station and its owner and publicly guarantee non-repetition.
The organisation urged Ajimobi to ensure full and effective respect for the rights to freedom of expression and media freedom in Oyo State.
It also urged the governor to take this step within seven days of the receipt of the letter, failing, which it would take national and international legal actions to compel his government to act in the public interest and the overall interest of the rule of law.
In the letter issued on August 21, 2018, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, the organisation said: “We have information to suggest that the destruction of Fresh FM was based on political considerations and retaliation against the radio station on purported allegations of defamation against you. The facts suggest that the demolition of Fresh FM building failed to comply with the principle of lawfulness and reasonableness. The demolition was neither done in the public interest nor carried out to achieve a legitimate aim.”
The organisation stated further that “this apparently unlawful action has set a bad precedent and created a high level of uncertainty and anxiety among many radio stations and other media organisations in the state about the future because of the likelihood of their buildings being demolished when they are deemed to broadcast views which the state authorities may consider too critical or ‘defamatory’.”
The letter read in part: “By going ahead to demolish the Fresh FM building despite being served with the court papers in the case filed by the station, you implicitly obstructed access of the radio station and their owners to appropriate forms of legal protection, contrary to the provisions of the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party and which is legally binding on the government of Oyo State.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the Oyo State authorities carried out the demolition of Fresh FM building with willful disregard for the dignity, health and safety of residents and the owner, who is a person with disabilities. The demolition of the radio station has now exposed residents to the elements and the public to the risk of complete collapse of the building.
“Since your government’s action in this case suggests serious disregard for the safety and welfare of the residents of Fresh FM, the authorities’ conduct may have risen to a level of severity so as to constitute inhuman and degrading treatment of residents and owner, contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
“Your government has reportedly cut water, electricity, gas, and telephone lines to the radio station, rendering it uninhabitable and incapable of discharging its constitutional duties of informing the citizens and ensuring that government is both responsible and accountable to the people.”