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Buhari’s title: No law states how a President should be addressed, says NBA (Updated)

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Buhari’s title: No law states how a President should be addressed, says NBA (Updated)

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Lawyers on Wednesday backed the decision of PUNCH to henceforth address the President of the country as Major General Muhammadu Buhari ( retd . ) and his administration as a regime .
But the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption , Prof. Itse Sagay , and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria , Dr Alex Izinyon, opposed PUNCH ’ s decision .
The PUNCH , in a front page comment titled, “Buhari ’ s lawlessness : Our stand” on Wednesday , assessed the President and his leadership style and concluded that Buhari , who ruled the country as a military head of state from 1983 to 1985, had failed to “wean himself off his military antecedents . ”
The newspaper ’ s decision generated a variety of mixed comments and reactions across Nigeria , particularly on the social media , and abroad with a significant majority backing the newspaper while a minority criticised it.
A few hours after PUNCH ’ s comment was published, two presidential aides expressed reservations about the decision to prefix Buhari ’ s name with Major General .
The President’ s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina , in a statement , said PUNCH ’ s decision was an indication that the country did not lack freedom of speech .
Adesina ’ s statement , which was unusually measured and temperate, stated , “A newspaper says it will henceforth address President Muhammadu Buhari by his military rank of Major General .
“Nothing untoward in it. It is a rank the President attained by dint of hard work before he retired from the Nigerian Army . And today , constitutionally , he is also the Commander -in -Chief of the Armed Forces .
“All over the world , just as in our country , a large number of retired military officers are now democrats . It does not make those who did not pass through military service better than them .
“Rather than being pejorative , addressing President Buhari by his military rank is another testimony to free speech and freedom of the press , which this administration ( or regime , if anyone prefers : it is a matter of semantics) has pledged to uphold and preserve . ”
But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu , in a separate statement , disagreed with the newspaper and accused the newspaper of ‘ personal hatred and animus ’ for the president .
The spokesperson who did not address the substance of the editorial, which drew attention to the regime ’ s repeated assault on the rule of law, disobedience of court orders , illegal detentions , the invasion of an Abuja court by armed operatives of the Department of State Services and other sundry human rights abuses claimed that the newspaper wanted to change the title of the president .
He said PUNCH “never changed President Olusegun Obasanjo ’ s title from the President to General Obasanjo , despite the latter ’ s refusal to comply with the Supreme Court judgment ordering him to release N30bn to Lagos State. ”
Shehu said when “General Ibrahim Babangida , who wasn ’ t democratically elected , assumed the title of President, ” PUNCH did not challenge him .
He recalled that Babangida closed media houses , including PUNCH , for several months.
“The Constitution of Nigeria recognises the President as the formal official title of the occupant of that office . Can the Punch newspapers , in their hubris address the President as Prime Minister as it pleases ?” he asked .
NBA backs PUNCH
The Nigerian Bar Association , however , threw its weight behind the decision by PUNCH to begin prefixing the President’ s name by his last military rank, major general .
The National Publicity Secretary of the association , Mr Kunle Edun , in an interview with The PUNCH , said the newspaper did not violate any law by its decision .
He noted that the newspaper was only expressing its right to freedom of expression in reaction to the acts of the regime .
Edun stated , “We all know that military regimes have no respect for the rule of law and the judiciary is usually under attack , ” he stated .
Edun said referring to Buhari as a major general was not defamatory since it was his last rank in the military.
He said, “I am not aware of any law that expressly states how the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be addressed or prefixed ; whether as Mr President, a General or simply as Alhaji , is of no consequence at the moment because it is a fact that Buhari is a retired military general and someone who has undergone the mandatory hajj.
“Moreso , the appellations used are not defamatory. Punch has just decided how to express its fundamental right to freedom of expression in conveying its reactions about certain actions of this government . ”
PUNCH has not violated any law – Falana
A Lagos -based rights lawyer , Femi Falana ( SAN ) , said PUNCH had not violated any law, adding that the description was appropriate for the present regime .
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria explained that the reactions of both Adesina and Shehu did not address the grave allegations of gross human rights abuses that had become the hallmark of the Buhari regime .
Falana noted that contrary to the diversionary ploy of the presidential spokespersons to cover up the desecration of the Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday , the State Security Service had apologised to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu and the Chief Judge of the court for the armed invasion of the temple of justice.

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