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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday disclosed that the federal government had directed the closure of a fund-raising platform set up to enable supporters contribute N100 to the presidential campaign of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Fashola, who is also the Director of Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Fund, added that the decision of the federal government to shut the 35350 platform was nothing but repression of freedom, which obviously violated section 39 of the 1999 Constitution.
Thisday Newspaper reports that the governor expressed profound disappointment at the decision of the federal government at a news conference which he addressed at Lagos House, Marina, alongside another member of the Fund, Mr. Ben Akabueze, and his Special Adviser on the Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello.
Disturbed by the blockage, the governor showed an official letter addressed to the GSM operators which the Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Fund partnered with purely for commercial transactions, insisting that the operators were engaged in line with the services they contracted to render in the country.
Fashola said the directive to shut the platform was contained in a letter dated January 19 with reference No: NCC/CAB/GEN/2015/VOL.1/004 which was signed by the Director of Consumer Affairs, Mrs. Maryam Bayi, and the Head of Legal and Regulatory Services, Mrs. Yinka Akinloye, on behalf of the Executive Vice-Chairman of Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah.
He explained the role of the Minister of Communication and Technology, Mrs. Mobolaji Johnson, who he said personally called and compelled the operators of ‘ten codes’ not “to carry our campaign message. I think this is very low.”
If the federal government fails to reverse the platform, the fund director said all legal means to protect our rights “to communicate and carry our campaign message will be within the ambit of what we will explore as far as court action is concerned.”
However, Fashola observed that the fact that the country’s judiciary “has been shut down due to industrial action will frustrate legal action.
He added that he never expected to witness some of the “distasteful and disgraceful conduct” that the agencies of the federal government, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Jonathan/Sambo presidential campaign team “have embarked upon by way of repression of freedom. As a Nigerian, I feel personally embarrassed.
“Can a government that says it cares about young people and wants their votes be shutting down their generation platforms? This is what young people use for communication.
“ Indeed, all of you are aware that the presidential campaign also used this platform in 2010. President Goodluck Jonathan himself has a Facebook page.
“If this is not media censorship, I do not know what it is. So, by yesterday afternoon, apart from issuing letters that the telecoms operators should not carry our message, they have shut down the 35350 platform for sending message to contribute N100 to the Fund.
It happened around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. Before that happened, after we left this place on Monday afternoon, we were getting four to five messages per minute.”
The governor acknowledged the massive response from Nigerians desirous of change to the platform, which the NCC shut down at about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, noting that at the time it was shut down, over 5,400 people “have contributed to it.”
Fashola accused the NCC of double standards, saying the commission had in a letter dated October 21, 2010, with reference no: NCC/TSMI /short Code/ Vol.9/044/ 2010 granted approval to the Goodluck/Sambo presidential campaign to use the same platform.
The letter was signed by the Director Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Dr. B.M Sani, having approved the application of Wagilri Communication Limited for short codes to be used for fund raising for the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign then.