Reuben Abati, former spokesman to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, says Nigeria is running “a regime of secrecy” under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Abati spoke in Lagos on Thursday, at the launch of a report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), titled “Something to Hide?: Media Freedom Under Siege in Nigeria”.
Abati, who compared the present administration to the military era, expressed concern over what he described as the restriction of freedom happening under the Buhari government.
“People are embarrassed, because despite the fact that the democratic dispensation is supposed to expand the civic space and the scope of freedom — since we have in office persons who have sworn an oath to defend and protect the Constitution — it is the same persons that are violating the constitution and restricting the scope of human freedom,” he said.
“We are running a regime of secrecy, and if you’ve been in government like I had, the mindset there is that there is something they call ‘the need to know’. So, government officials determine what they think you should know. That itself defeats the objective of an open society, of an open government.
“So, we are not running an open government; we’re running a closed government.”
The former presidential spokesperson also said the government has made it difficult for journalists to hold public officials accountable.
“We don’t find that public support in the country today. Journalists under section 22, have been given the constitutional right to hold government accountable, under Section 39,” he said.
“Freedom of speech is guaranteed, so that we have a society where there is a flow of information and people can hold their government accountable. But government will not allow that transparency and accountability; government has something to hide.”