Following several media reports on the expulsion of a first-year student by the Taraba State University, for criticising Governor Darius Ishaku on Facebook, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has threatened to institute a legal action against the university authority.
A statement issued by SERAP via its Twitter handle said: “BREAKING: Taraba State University authorities must immediately & unconditionally reinstate Joseph Israel, a first-year student expelled after he criticized governor, Darius Ishaku, on Facebook. We’ll pursue legal action if Mr Israel is not immediately reinstated.”
The statement further said: “No students should ever be punished simply for exercising their rights to criticize government/public officials. Expelling a student for exercising his right to freedom of expression & assembly violates international human rights law and Nigerian constitution.”
SERAP added that, “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party guarantees freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.
Meanwhile, Reno Omokri, former media aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan, joined many Nigerians in condemning the expulsion of Joseph Israel by the university authority in Taraba State.
Reno Omokri wrote on his Twitter handle that, “this trend of Nigerian governors throwing critics in jail or punishing them, must end.
“First @Elrufai and @Dadiyata. Then Ayade and #AgbaJalingo. Now, Taraba State University expels Joseph Israel for criticising Gov Ishaku. GEJ didn’t sign FOI for this?”
However, a look into Section 39(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria provides that, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
Similarly, in articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of opinion and expression has been protected in all of the relevant international human rights treaties.
In international law, freedom to express opinions and ideas is considered essential at both an individual level, insofar as it contributes to the full development of a person, and being a foundation stone of democratic society.
Mr Jibrin is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Jalingo, Taraba State.