Following the ‘combative’ rearrest of Convener of RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services, DSS, at the Federal High Court Abuja, Amnesty International Nigeria, SERAP, and other civil society groups have threatened to embark on mass action if the Federal Government does not release him unconditionally within 14 days.
They issued the ultimatum at a World Press Conference on Monday in Abuja to express their concern over the perceived assault on the judiciary and right to free speech in the country.
The CSOs also called for the release of all illegally detained persons in DSS custody. They said the exercise of power by the DSS to the extent of invading the court for the purpose of effecting an arrest was worrisome and called for an investigation of the officers who violated protocol in Sowore’s rearrest as well as the circumstances leading to the incidence in court last Friday.
They also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to show accountability as President and Commander-in-Chief and address the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights.
“If these demands are not honoured within 14 days – we call on patriots to join us as we occupy the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) offices across the country, as it is legally mandated to protect rights and it reports to the Presidency,” the CSOs said.
In her speech, Biola Akiode-Afolabi, Chairperson of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) explained that the planned mass action was a fight for the soul of the country.
She said, “It is about the soul of our nation. It is gradually becoming a style of the government to desecrate courts with a lot of impunity without minding the implications of its actions on the people.”
According to Auwal Rafsanjani, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the Federal Government must apologize to Nigerians over the embarrassing situation that played out in court during Sowore’s rearrest
He said it was a moral obligation on the civil society to ensure that governance is sanitized and that those in power took responsibility for the actions and inactions of government agencies.
On his part, Deji Adeyanju, Concerned Nigerians, said it was disgraceful that President Buhari had not hidden his intentions to subjugate rule of law to ‘national security’.
He said mass action in Nigeria was inevitable if the Buhari-led government continued to demonstrate this position through the flagrant disregard of valid court orders on the illegal detention of Sowore and other notable personalities including Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and Colonel Sambo Dasuki.
On the allegation that Sowore violated one of his bail conditions by addressing the press after his release from security custody last Thursday, Yemi Adamolekun, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria), said the DSS ought to have returned to the Federal High Court seeking the vacation of his bail if it believed the activist acted in ways that contradicted the law and threatened the peace of the nation.
“The DSS cannot accuse Sowore of violating his bail condition and arbitrarily exercise the powers to rearrest him with a valid order of the court,” she stressed.
On the claim by Femi Adesina, a presidential aide, that less than 100,000 Nigerians are moved by Sowore’s rearrest, Idayat Hassan, Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD), described it as a blanket statement and said there was no empirical evidence to the claim.
“Adesina who said millions of Nigerians are not bothered by Sowore’s rearrest did not carry out a survey. There is simply no data to his claims. There is no evidence that suggests that less than 100,000 Nigerians are not worried by the DSS’ invasion of the court to effect Sowore’s second arrest.”
Similarly, the presidential candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP, in the 2019 elections, Tope Fasua, described Adesina’s statement as unfortunate, saying even if a mere 100,000 Nigerians trooped out to protest an issue, the government with all its might may be unable to manage the situation.
He added, “What we have seen so far is gross abuse and wastage of taxpayers’ money using so many security operatives, vehicles, and resource to pursue Sowore whom the government has been unable to prove a case against in court. We cannot outlaw the fact stand up to their rights to hold government accountable and freely express themselves.”
On the allegation that Sowore sought to topple the government because he was a rejected at the 2019 presidential elections which President Buhari won, Fasua said: “We have lost our sense of history in this country. Gani Fawehinmi ran for Presidency in this country and continued to criticise government till the day he died. Similarly, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti also ran for Presidency and continued to do the same even in death through his music.”
Other notable activists represented at the press conference include: Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International (Nigeria), Lanre Suraj, (HEDA), Kola Ogundare, Socio-Economic Right And Accountability Project (SERAP)
Jaye Gaskia, Take Back Nigeria (TBN).