Nigeria’s presidency on Wednesday said The Punch Newspaper has no right to change President Muhammadu Buhari’s formal title as the president of the country to his military rank.

“It is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s President as it pleases,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

“It is unprecedented and absurd in our recent political history.”

The Punch Newspaper in its Wednesday’s editorial said that it will henceforth address the Nigerian President with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s- Buhari as Major General Buhari (retd).

“As a symbolic demonstration of our protest against autocracy and military-style repression, PUNCH (all our print newspapers, The PUNCH, Saturday PUNCH, Sunday PUNCH, PUNCH Sports Extra, and digital platforms, most especially Punchng.com) will henceforth prefix Buhari’s name with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s, Major General, and refer to his administration as a regime, until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law,” The Punch said.

The Punch said its decision was in protest of serial disregard for human rights, court orders and the battering of other arms of government and Nigeria’s democratic institutions by the ‘Buhari regime’.

The national daily criticized the president for the continued detention of Sahara Reporters publisher Omoyele Sowore, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim el-Zakzakky and his wife and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki by agencies of the Nigerian government despite court orders granting them bail.

But Shehu said The Punch was being hypocritical and political of its claims against Buhari.

“The Punch never changed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s title from the President to General Obasanjo, despite the latter’s refusal to comply with Supreme Court judgment, ordering him to release N30 billion of Lagos State local councils funds,” Shehu said.

“It is obvious that the Punch newspapers are playing partisan opposition politics which has nothing to do with journalism.”