Home Features HOW OUR UTTERANCES SHAPE NIGERIA & NIGERIANS’ PERCEPTION IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

HOW OUR UTTERANCES SHAPE NIGERIA & NIGERIANS’ PERCEPTION IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

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One of the most prominent features of democracy of the Fourth Republic in Nigeria is the fact that people have been re-awakened to know that they are truly the key components of governance. People have realized, more than ever before, that they could question their representatives in government and even remove inept leaders through the ballot box. People today are more willing to participate in events and processes that shape their lives. Since that great discovery was made, representative democracy remains the veritable means of ensuring wide indirect participation in governance by the citizenry. Over the past few decades, particularly during military rule, the polity in Nigeria has been greatly influenced and sensitized by the network of civil society organizations. The daring actions of Civil Society Organizations, particularly during military regimes have contributed to the advancement of democracy, with increasing consciousness that the masses must exercise governing power; directly or indirectly, through their representatives in government. However, the best is yet to come pertaining to accountability of the political class to the electorate. Demand for accountability is largely exercised through free speech. People, every so often speak about ‘’Free Speech’’ as enshrined in the Constitution. One of the most important issues addressed by the United Nations, upon its formation is ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (1949) has as its Article 19 a clause that states that:  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference; and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’’  The ordinary man on the streets would believe, erroneously though, that given constitutional provisions, he or she has the right to speak anyhow. This is far from the reality, as there are indeed boundaries to free speech. While it is universally accepted that laws and statutes are made to protect freedom of information and speech, there are also restrictions placed on a speaker or communicator. Today, freedom of speech, or the freedom of expression, is recognized in international and regional human rights laws. The right is enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the…

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