Editorial: Banning human rights radio and the unnecessary controversy

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Last month, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) premiered a documentary that shows a popular broadcaster/human rights activist, Ahmad Isah, slapped a lady identified as Susan, accused of burning her little niece’s head over claim that the little girl is possessed and a witch. The premiered documentary featured clips showing the little girl’s burnt head, a sight that is unfortunate and would elicit every drop of human feeling even if emotions are made of steel.

Ahmad Isah’s inability to control his emotions led to his sanction and that of his radio station that, according to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) have been petitioned serially prior to the incident in question. He was also caught on camera assaulting another man who was caught allegedly duping unsuspecting petitioners at the gate of the radio station.  Isah’s conduct was an aberration from the NBC’s code and base on this, we support his reprimand. Professional codes are meant to be upheld even in the face of tempting circumstances.

Considering the inhuman treatment meted on a minor which may result in a permanent bodily damage, we are tempted to align with Ahmad Isah’s action, however, as a Broadcaster, he allowed his emotions to overwhelm him. We hold that Isah erred; he should therefore face the consequences of his action. The NBC’s 30 days suspension of the license of the Human Rights Radio should serve as deterrence to other broadcast stations in the country.

With regard to the little girl’s case, we understand clearly, why and how he lost his temper “in active duty”. Even any member of the management of the NBC in the shoe of the embattled broadcaster would probably have done worse to Susan.

Putting the situation on a social pedestal, that such heartless assault on a minor was reported at a radio station instead of a Police station is evidence of the trust and confidence that listeners and followers of Isah’s Berekete Family Radio Reality programme invested on him (instead of law enforcement agencies) and his approach at getting justice through the institutions of government.

That injustice walks freely on two legs in Nigeria is not hyperbolical. Injustice permeates almost all human activities and it has unfortunately crept into public institutions. Today, Civil Society Organsations (CSOs) constitutional and human rights lawyers are burdened with petitions from victims of various forms of rights abuses especially perpetrated by government and public institutions.

Unfortunately, injustice has seamlessly blended with the day to day life of the common man to such extend that he sees injustice done to him as happenstance, he would then rather leave justice for Providence to judge, since he has no knowledge of where and how to seek redress. This rather than pricked the conscience of perpetrators of this impunity, emboldens them and steriodised their ego to trample on the rights of others without second thought, human feeling or empathy.

For the criminal justice system, the use of torture and other ill-treatment are freely perpetrated by the police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the military. Harrowing tales of victims some of whom are left with physical and psychological deformities are being revealed at various judicial panels set up by in the wake of the #EndSARS protests that engulfed the country in 2020.

The #EndSARS protest was prompted by the criminality by security agents and public perception that the government okayed police brutality and its abusive approach to criminal investigations especially the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The government, to quell the rising tension occasioned by the protests assured Nigerians that it would look into the activities of all security agencies with the view of ensuring that justice is served and compensation paid where necessary. However, the government would eventually be implicated in attacks on protesters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, and in Lagos state, social media footage, on October 20 revealed men identified as military officers shooting at peaceful protesters attracted global condemnation. Several people were reportedly killed but the death toll remains uncertain.

The mother of the hapless girl did not only get justice as the police were able to apprehend Susan, Isah sponsored the series of surgical operations needed by the girl. The mother, like millions of Nigerians both home and in diaspora believes in the Human Rights Radio as the channel to seek justice, is a pointer that our security agencies need to do more to earn the trust of Nigerians.

We commend the NBC’s proaction in sanctioning Isah, we therefore hope the same zeal it would extend to other erring broadcast stations across the country. Justice must remain blind and its dispensation should be thorough not minding whose horse is gored.

Law enforcement agencies must also ensure that Susan is made to face the full wrath of the law for the inhuman treatment of a minor in her care. Justice must always be served without regards to emotions, personalities involved and for a just society.

Ahmad Isah

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