A Nigerian newspaper has called the government of President Muhammadu Buhari a dictatorship for its repeated violations of human rights and “disregard” for democratic institutions.
The Punch newspaper said in an editorial published on Wednesday that it could no longer overlook the actions of law enforcement agencies under President Buhari, which it said had culminated in attacks on the country’s media, people and civil society.
The news site said it is now going to address Buhari with his military name, and it will define his government as a dictatorship.
“Until he and his repressive regime purge themselves of their martial tendency therefore, PUNCH will not be a party to falsely adorning it with a democratic robe, hence our decision to label it for what it is — an autocratic military-style regime run by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd),” the editorial said.
The newspaper referenced the arrest and detention of Nigerian activist Omoyele Sowore and Muslim cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky and the “disregard” of court orders issued for the release of the detainees by the authorities and the security forces of the country.
Buhari has been criticized over Sowore’s arrest and accused of restricting free speech. Sowore, the US-based Sahara Reporter publisher, was detained by the Department of State Security along with another activist, Olawale Bakare, accused of treason for leading a national demonstration against the government, and held in detention against court orders to grant him bail.
However, presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, said the decision of the newspaper was indicative of Buhari’s commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of the media in the country.
He also said that it was through hard work, that Buhari earned his military rank, and as such, the news channel was well within its rights to address him as such.
In his words “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 Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,” Adesina said in a statement.
President Buhari ruled Nigeria as a military head of state for the first time in 1983. He was democratically elected as president in 2015 and secured a second term this year.