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President Buhari Pledges to Uphold Press Freedom, Rule of Law

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The Presidency has pledged and assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari will not influence the decisions of courts in the ongoing high profile corruption cases in the country.

This was made known by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu while reacting to the comments that trailed the Buhari’s first Presidential Media Chat on Wednesday.

There were mixed reactions to President Buhari’s comments during the chat on court cases involving former National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki and leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.

The president had, in response to questions on alleged violation of court orders by security agents in the trials of Dasuki and Kanu, said: “If you see the atrocities those committed against this country, we can’t allow them to jump bail.”

The response has drawn criticisms, especially from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which accused Buhari of being tyrannical.

But Shehu, in an article, titled “Media chat, a win-win move,” said the president was only freely expressing his personal opinion on the matter, as every other Nigerian was doing freely.

He said Buhari would have been wrong if he had tried to impose such views on the courts or anyone.

“It is harsh of anyone to deny the President an opinion on these matters when all of us are freely commenting upon them. Muhammadu Buhari is first a citizen before becoming a President. He is entitled to hold views as you and I are under the constitution.
“What will be wrong is when he tries to impose those views on the courts or on anyone, and this not anything he has done, and will not do as the elected president of Nigeria,” he said.

The article stated that “many understand his comments regarding the bail for Col Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu to mean that government would use all avenues in the legal system to ensure that they are made to face trials.”

Shehu said under the constitution, no one can stop the courts from doing their jobs, saying it is a matter the President keeps going back to, given his much-cherished, newly-acquired democratic beliefs.

The senior special assistant pointed out that on any given day in court, lawyers argue the pros and cons of given issues and so do writers and commentators in the media.

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He said a lawyer can argue for bail, while another one argues against it, with both entitled to their views.

He explained that Buhari was first a citizen before becoming president and was entitled to hold views under the constitution.

Addressing the issue of Biafran agitations, Shehu said, the president drew lessons from history on the strategic consequences of failing to act with firmness and great wisdom.

He also said on economic review, Buhari presented a sobering picture not only for the government, but for the general public to heed the warning signal.
The article also dwelt on the president’s condour, saying “it was very rare that when asked a question, the leader of a country will say I don’t have the answer, I will seek explanation from so, so or that I will instruct the Central Bank to issue a statement on that.”

According to him, this was why when Buhari speaks, the public believes him because he does so with an aura of sincerity.

“This is something that helps public perception. A leader who knows it all by himself is not what a country needs,” Shehu said.

On the media, Shehu pointed out that since assuming power in May, 2015, the President has sent very clear signals to the media of his non-interference with their freedom.

The aide said as the leader of a large and diverse country, the president wants the media to rise above speculations, do a lot of research and investigation to produce credible articles.

He said the media needed to do this to ramp up their credibility, failure of which they will risk dragging down their reputable institution from the high pedestal it occupies.

Shehu remarked that the media chat served both sides well, with the media carrying out their constitutional duty and the President having a useful platform to reach millions of citizens.

He said the chat had 300,000 tweets and feedbacks from TV viewers and radio listeners using the hashtags #presidentialmediachat, #PMBmediachat and #ASKBuhari.

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