By David O Royal
The civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has faulted the presidency for comparing Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare with Boko Haram militants.
Recall that the presidency had on Sunday released a statement where he explained why the Department of State Services, (DSS) is detaining the convener of RevolutionNow despite court order for his release.
The presidency in the statement said “The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in far away New York and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, to wit, Nnamdi Kanu.”
However, SERAP has strongly condemned this comparison by the presidency, making it clear that Sowore and Bakare are not terrorists.
Read the full statement: “We condemn the statement today by @NigeriaGov issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Muhammadu Buhari, which seems to Boko Haram militants.
To be absolutely clear: Sowore and Bakare are not terrorists.” It’s unacceptable to compare citizens who are also activists simply exercising their human rights including freedom of expression with militants who are killing our people and destroying property.
Freedom of expression is not yet a crime under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).
What is happening to Sowore and Bakare shows clear attempts by the Nigerian authorities to further silence critics, activists and the media while they continue to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
This is illustrated through persistent disobedience of court orders, and as we witnessed last week, the invasion of Justice Ojukwu’s court by the DSS.
The persecution of Sowore and Bakare is sending a chilling and unambiguous message to all Nigerians, and is part of a systematic effort to silence independent media and critical voices in Nigeria to prevent public scrutiny of governments at both the Federal and state levels.
Nigerian authorities now need to begin to protect citizens’ human rights and the rule of law.
That should start with the immediate withdrawal of the bogus charges against Sowore and Bakare and the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore from arbitrary detention.
We are concerned that Nigerian authorities continue to openly scorn the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s human rights commitments.
This concerted attack on the rule of law must stop.
The UN, African Union, African commission on human and peoples’ rights and members of the international community can make a unique impact by speaking forcefully and publicly in defense of human rights, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Nigeria.