By Emma Amaize, Clifford Ndujihe, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dirisu Yakubu, Onozure Dania, Ike Uchechukwu , Umar Yusuf & Luminous Jannamike
•Court fixes Thursday for ruling; lawyer, 5 others arraigned
•I’m okay, happy protests took place, Sowore speaks from detention
•Tackle complaints, don’t arrest protesters, PANDEF tells FG
•CSOs flay shrinking civil space
•Secondus, others call for Sowore’s release; Kalu, The Nation’s reporter freed
•Call for revolution in democracy condemnable — Kebbi’s Gov Bagudu
ABUJA— The Department of State Service, DSS, yesterday approached the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, seeking leave to detain the convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, for 90 days.
The security agency prayed the court to permit it to further retain Sowore in custody, pending conclusion of its investigations.
But Seyi Sowemimo, SAN, in a reaction last night said: “I don’t think the extra 90 days detention by the DSS is constitutional, they are detaining him just to find evidence against him.”
It will be recalled that the activist and publisher was arrested by DSS operatives in his hotel room in Lagos over the weekend following his call for nationwide revolutionary protest against alleged maladministration by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
The protest which held in various parts of the country on Monday, met stiff resistance from security agencies, with some of the protesters arrested and subsequently arraigned in Lagos.
Meanwhile, the DSS, in an application it brought before Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who is sitting as a vacation Judge, said it would need Sowore in custody till all its investigations were concluded.
The exparte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 915/19, sought an order of the court to detain Sowore beyond the statutorily allowed 48 hours after his arrest.
Sowore, who was the candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the February 23 presidential election, was arrested in the early hours of Saturday and moved to Abuja on Sunday.
DSS told the court that he was arrested for spearheading the #RevolutionNow protest.
Meanwhile, after he had listened to the motion moved by counsel to the DSS, Mr. G. O. Abadua, Justice Taiwo said he would need time to watch video clips attached to the motion.
Consequently, he adjourned ruling on the request till Thursday.
Lawyer, 5 others arraigned
Six protesters arrested on Monday in Lagos during the #Revolution Now protest convened by the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, were yesterday arraigned by the Police before a Lagos Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting at Ebute- Metta.
This is even as Sowore spoke from his DSS detention custody yesterday, saying he was in very good health and expressed happiness over the staging of the protests in some states of the country
The protesters, alongside a lawyer, were arraigned on a two-count charge bordering on unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause breach of the peace.
The defendants are Ehis Omoshomio, 35; Gabriel Ojumah, 51, Juwon Sanyaolu, 22; Stanley Anobi, 28; Elias Ozikpu, 30; Kenechukwu Ukachukwu, 25.
Police Prosecutor, Anota Oluseye told the court that the defendants unlawfully assembled themselves “in such manner to cause fear and disturb the public peace.”
He said the defendants had committed the offences on August 5, at 10.00a.m., at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
Oluseye alleged that the six defendants had assembled themselves at the National Stadium to protest against bad governance and that the gathering was unlawful and caused fear to the public.
According to the prosecutor, the defendants acted contrary to and were liable to be punished under Sections 44 and 168(1)(d) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
The defendants however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Following a bail application by their lawyer, Mr Stanley Imhanruor, the Magistrate, Mrs Abimbola Komolafe, granted the second defendant, a lawyer, bail on self-recognition, while the other five defendants were admitted to N100,000 bail each with two responsible sureties in like sum.
The court adjourned till September 26, 2019 for mention.
I’m okay, Sowore speaks from detention, happy protests took place
Speaking from DSS custody yesterday, Sowore said he was in very good health and expressed happiness over the staging of the protests in some states of the country.
Sowore, who has refused to eat meals given to him by the DSS, thanked Nigerians and the international community for their support in the protest against bad governance in Nigeria.
He spoke when the “Take It Back Movement” visited the DSS facility where he is being held.
“I would like to assure everyone that I am being treated well and in very good health. I am pleased that the peaceful #RevolutionNow protests went ahead.
“However, knowledge of the sheer number of innocent Nigerians being arrested for exercising their civil rights bothers me. I join others in demanding for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested by the police on Monday,” Sowore said
Director, Media and Communication of the movement, Rachel Onamusi-Kpiasi, in a statement, yesterday, confirmed that Sowore was in high spirits.
She said: “At 6.00pm today, August 5, 2019, members of the Take it Back Movement were allowed to visit our convener, Omoyele Sowore, for the first time since his armed abduction in the early hours last Saturday, August 3.
“We met him in high spirits, unmoved by the events of the last few days. The officers allowed us to present him with food as Sowore had refused all meals since his capture. We are also happy to confirm that Take it Back members will be allowed to bring him food daily as he wished.
“The freedom fighter was quick to ask about the movement and supporters as he is aware that there will be a lot of worry about his well-being.
“Indeed, the silver lining in today’s unrest lies in the knowledge that truly, you cannot stop an idea whose time has come. The Take it Back Movement will continue to agitate for his release as well as that of comrades whose voices this oppressive regime has tried to silence. This visit was a small win; but we will not rest until we are free and free indeed.”
Tackle complaints, don’t seize protesters, PANDEF tells FG
Meanwhile, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, yesterday, criticised the Federal Government for cracking down on the Convener of #RevolutionNow, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, and other Nigerians, who peacefully demonstrated their disaffection with the state of affairs in the nation, rather than address the issues they raised.
This came as more Nigerians, including the national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus; Deputy Secretary of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, and civil society groups, called for the immediate release of Sowore.
The Department of State Services, DSS, had last Saturday picked up Sowore from his house in Lagos as part of moves to frustrate the Monday protest.
He was on Sunday morning moved to Abuja and detained in the custody of the DSS.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), had said he expected that Sowore would be arraigned on Monday because by law, a suspect could not be kept in detention without arraignment beyond 48 hours after arrest.
Release Sowore, others now — PANDEF
In a statement by its National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, the regional group said: “PANDEF calls for the immediate release of Mr. Omoyele Sowore and all those Nigerians who may have been arrested in course of peacefully demonstrating their disaffection at the state of affairs of the nation.
“The Federal Government ought to note the issues highlighted by the RevolutionNow protestations and take needed actions to address the hardship in the country, rather than cracking down on citizens for exercising their rights to speech, association, and assembly.
“The PANDEF strongly condemns the arrest of the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Service (DSS) for his active role in the planned nationwide march to demand for decisive actions, from the government, on the nation’s security, economic, educational and healthcare challenges.
“PANDEF equally condemns actions of the Nigerian Police Force for describing the planned protests as treasonable felony and acts of terrorism. If we may ask, how can protest against insecurity, suffering and hardship in the country occasioned by misrule, amount to treasonable felony?
“Meanwhile, those who are actually threatening the unity and stability of the country by killing and maiming innocent Nigerians daily, are freely moving around in the country.
“It is disconcerting that the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari is increasingly becoming intolerant of criticism and contrary opinions, and undemocratic in its actions.
“The fundamental human rights of association and expression of views are protected and guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution provides among other things that every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his or her interests.
“We would, therefore, call on the APC- led federal government and agencies of government to demonstrate greater respect for the nation’s constitution and its provisions, particularly those concerning fundamental rights such as right to life, right to dignity of the human person, right to personal liberty, right to freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly and association.”
The Nation’s reporter regains freedom
Meantime, The Nation newspaper’s Correspondent in Cross River, Mr Nicholas Kalu, arrested over the failed protest in Calabar has regained freedom.
Mr Kalu told Vanguard that he was arrested at about 9.00 am on Monday and held in custody for over 12 hours at the Police Command Headquarters on Diamond Hill, Calabar.
His words : “They just kept me in detention for no reason after I explained to them that I am a journalist and only went to do my work.
“They didn’t offer any explanation, they just kept me there for hours. At the end, they told me to write a statement. I was with others arrested yesterday and at about 10 p.m., they called me out. The other guys arrested with me were still in police custody when I left.”
Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Cross River State Council, Mr. Victor Udu, described Kalu’s arrest as unnecessary and berated the police for detaining him.
Udu said even after he went with some members of the union to the police to identify Kalu, the police still held on to him. He expressed disappointment with the police because the union had a good working relationship with the force in the state.
Come clean on Sowore’s arraignment, AAC lawyer tells DSS
Human rights lawyer and National Legal Adviser of the African Action Congress, AAC, Inibehe Effiong, has urged the DSS to come clean on its plan to prosecute Sowore, who was the party’s 2019 presidential candidate.
Effiong, who is also Sowore’s counsel maintained that the treasonable felony and other reasons advanced by the DSS for detaining his client without any date for arraignment in court are untenable in law.
According to him, Sowore is ready to have his day in court rather than being denied his fundamental rights indefinitely in security custody.
Speaking in a telephone conversation with Vanguard, yesterday, Effiong said: “The Federal Government’s militaristic response to a peaceful protest is completely condemnable and unacceptable.
“Mr. Sowore’s bail has not been secured. He is still in security custody. There are speculations here and there as to his arraignment in court but we have not confirmed any date yet.
“The Department of State Services is in a position to tell Nigerians when he will be arraigned in court.
“The explanations by the DSS is not tenable either in law or ethics. We have made the point clearly that there was no reason for Sowore’s arrest.
“So, we are continuing to demand for his immediate and unconditional release because there is no part of the ‘Revolution Now’ campaign that is suggestive of treason or treasonable felony as fallaciously claimed by the DSS. We urge the authorities to either arraign or release him.”
APC govt has become a military junta — Secondus
Calling for the release of Sowore and other political detainees, PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, said the All Progressive Congress, APC-led Federal Government was acting like a military junta.
Secondus, who spoke at Government House, Yola when he paid a condolence visit on the State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, over the death of his father, said President Muhammadu Buhari should release all those arrested as a result of the Sowore-initiated Revolution protests, which he described as “democracy in action.”
On why the PDP is not involved in the protests, the National Chairman revealed that the party is not a pressure group but a formidable political party and could not be involved in the said protest.
“What I am saying now is that the President should release all political prisoners and the ruling party should equally know that protests can take place in a democratic setup so long as the people are pressing home their dissatisfaction as a result of bad policies,” he stated.
Secondus reminded the ruling party that Nigeria is not under a military regime, so it behoves the government to join hands with the people of Nigeria to ensure smooth governance.
Call for revolution in democracy, condemnable — Gov Bagudu
However, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State said that any call for revolution in a democratic dispensation is condemnable.
Governor Bagudu, who is also Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC Governors’ Forum in an interview with State House correspondents in Abuja, faulted the revolution protests, stressing that the country has institutions where aggrieved citizens can take their complaints to for redress.
The governor, fielding questions from journalists after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said though democracy may not be the best form of government, it gives the electorate the right to choose their leaders through the electoral process.
According to him, “any call for disorder in a democratic setting is condemnable because democracy as the saying goes is not the best form of government but it is the best that we have, because it gives opportunity periodically for the electorate to exercise their mandate in affirming or rejecting leaders.
“We have just come through a general election in March this year where Nigerians embraced the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and he has been elected for a second term with a little more votes than they had in 2015.
“Also, state governors were elected in different states, a lot of them for a second term and a number of them for the first term.
“It’ s wrong for people to protest in a democratic setting, more so we have institutions that have been created for people to express discontent and not take the law into their hands.
“We all have representatives; why don’t they go to the House or office of their representatives? Where people decided to take the law into their hands, other people whose peaceful conduct is being affected are entitled to be protected and to the extent that it involves authority showing restraint and that did not go out of hand it is the proper thing to do.”
On whether he suspected any form of foreign conspiracy in the call for revolution, given the fact that some of the proponents were involved in the recent general elections, he said that developing countries have always been suspicious of the western world.
He said: “Well, developing countries have generally been worried about conspiracy from the western world. Historically, Walter Rodney and Amilcar Cabral and others have always been worried about effect of foreign actors and more so, we are not alone.”
Sowore’s arrest, detention unhealthy – Uko
In like manner, Deputy Secretary of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, Ugochukwu-Uko said the arrest and detention of Sowore were bad news for the political health and image of Nigeria, and “the clampdown on the demonstrators makes it difficult for government to continue pretending it respects the democratic rights of her citizens.”
Noting that the international community could not have forgotten the leaders of the Occupy Nigeria demonstrations that shut down Lagos and Abuja seven years ago, he said the world is wondering how and why the people who organized several high profile demonstrations against Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s government a few years ago have suddenly become intolerant of opposition voices today, “simply because they are now in government and therefore at the receiving end today.”
“It is truly surprising how government believes that clampdown and intimidation will ultimately resolve Nigeria’s governance, political, and structural issues that have only increased the number of disgruntled and disappointed populace in recent time.
“These clampdown tactics deepened the secessionist agitations, popularised the Shi’ites movement and created allies for them all over Nigeria today. These same clampdown tactics deployed once again, in a bid to avoid the necessary, unavoidable and inevitable conversation towards a new constitution and a new structure,will only turn the leaders and organizers of this demonstration heroes and celebrities.
Government should release Sowore and his colleagues and engage them without further delay. The tension in the land today demands truthfulness on the part of government and eminent leaders of Nigeria,” he added.
51 CSOs condemn shrinking civil space
Following Sowore’s arrest and clampdown on the protesters, a coalition of 51 civil society organizations has condemned what it called the restriction of the civil space by the President Buhari-led administration and called for the immediate release of Sowore and others being held over the protest.
The coalition made up of 51 registered CSOs in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, expressed disappointment at the manner the federal government is handling dissenting voices, opposed to the governance style of Buhari-led administration.
In a statement dripping with dismay, the group wondered why a government which recently had its mandate renewed for another four years would not commit to expanding democratic space for debates and arguments particularly with its critics.
The coalition picked holes in harassment of the media and CSOs, ban on protests and called for the immediate release of all activists currently in detention. It also urged the federal government to be cautious “of arbitrary misuse of power against the citizens for a non-violent protest and demonstration to express their views.”.
The statement was signed the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Centre for Democratic Research and Training, CRDDERT and Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC.
Others included Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA, Public Interest Lawyers League, PILL, Partners for West Africa – Nigeria, Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD, Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP, Falana Falana Chambers and a host of others.