Sedition is any statement or representation which has the intention to stair up treason; defame the person of the head of state or governor of a state or to incite one section of the population against another. Sedition is a crime against society, nearly allied to that of treason and it frequently pre-cases treason by a short interval. Sedition intention is to bring hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the head of federal government. he governor of state or government of the constitution of the country or a state as by law established or against the administration of justice. The 1999 constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press. Freedom of expression which is also press freedom is the right to express one’s idea and opinions freely through speech, writing and other form of communication. Press freedom is a cornerstone of human rights and a guarantee of other freedoms.
It encourages transparency and good governance; it ensures that, over and above the mere rule of law, society enjoys the rule of true justice. There are, however, those who still question the value of freedom of speech to their societies; those who argue that it threatens stability and endangers progress; those who still consider freedom of speech an imposition from abroad and not the indigenous expression of every people’s demand for freedom. Freedom of speech is a right to be fought for, not a blessing to be wished for. But it is more than that; it is a bridge of understanding and knowledge.
It is essential for that exchange of ideas between nations and cultures which is a condition for true understanding and lasting cooperation It has been noted that the law of sedition was one of the first press laws enacted by the British Colonial administration in the Protectorate of Nigeria to check rising press criticism. Many journalists and nationalists of that era were, as a result, jailed and newspapers heavily fined. On the attainment of independence, therefore, the nationalists had expected that such obnoxious laws would be expunged from the statutes.
Indeed, some progressive judges had ruled that such laws had no place in an independent Nigeria. But 46 years after, the law still occupies a prominent place in the statutes. The of sedition denies people their fundamental human rights of free expression, vitiates the right to criticize government and denies the people their right to self determination. The law of sedition could be misused by a dictator to overreach himself, thereby retarding the growth of democracy and development.
The law of sedition is aimed at protecting the government and its institutions which are established by law to serve the Nigerian people. Without such a law, acts of treason, such as incitement to riots, destruction of public property and enthronement of anarchy could be perpetrated by lawless people to the detriment of the state. The right to free expression is not absolute, such rights impose a corresponding duty on the citizens to respect constituted authority and stay within the provisions of the law.
In Nigeria, both military and civilian authorities have always found cause to use the law to repress the media, oftentimes under the guise of protecting national security. The strongest protection against such repression has been provided by the courts of law, which have ruled that sedition is unconstitutional, and that the people have the right to criticize government, point out its errors, and defend the people’s right to know. The status of the law of sedition in Nigerian jurisprudence is so clear and unambiguous.