CSOs accuse govt of oppression, abuse of human rights of #EndSARS promoters, activists
A file image of the #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate, before the gunfire.

…I see nothing wrong in freezing promoters’ accounts  — Akeredolu

…You can’t kill protests with terror, SMBLF tells Buhari

…Freezing their accounts may trigger another protest — Ohanaeze

…Treat issue  with utmost care — PANDEF tells FG

…Witch-hunt approach wrong — Concerned Professionals

…NBA, CSOs blast Akeredolu, describe him as military apologist

By Anayo Okoli, Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Ojelu, Joseph Erunke, Chris Ochayi, Chioma Onuegbu, Gabriel Ewepu &  Luminous Jannamike

GOVERNOR Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, yesterday, received knocks for backing the freezing of #EndSARS promoters’ accounts and regulation of social media.

Among those who tongue-lashed Akeredolu were Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Middle-Belt Forum, Nigerian bar Association, NBA, and Civil Society Organisations, CSOs.

Speaking on a day court granted bail to five #EndSARS protesters and a female journalist in Abuja, Governor Akeredolu backed freezing of bank accounts of #EndSARS promoters and asked asking those aggrieved to go to court and clear their names if they had nothing to hide.

“Speaking very honestly, I don’t see anything wrong in it,” the governor who doubles as the chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, said yesterday on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

“If for instance, my account was frozen, what would I do? All I would do is go back to court to explain. Even politicians, their accounts are sometimes frozen. You have to go to court and explain. And at the end of the day, the court will say, ‘leave the account. The account should be de-frozen’ and you take your money back,” the governor said.

Akeredolu, who also endorsed calls for regulation of social media, said the protesters must explain the flow of funds into their accounts.

“If your account is frozen, you justify why the money was there. You come to explain to what use you have put this money. It will be explained, people will know and the accounts will be de-frozen,” Akeredolu said  downplaying  insinuations that the protesters were being charged for a treasonable offence. ‘’It is not a conclusion that those accounts were used for acts of treason.”

Backing calls for the regulation of social media, he said: “There must be gatekeepers. Yes, you want to publish any news you like, there must be gatekeepers using technology that will be able to, at least, sieve what is right and what is wrong.”

He blamed fake news for the destruction of properties by hoodlums in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, adding that no government would allow fake news to take over the cyberspace.

“When the hoodlums took over, a lot of fake news were fed to the public. People were reacting to it. It led to the destruction of properties in Lagos, Akure, everywhere. If we cannot be disciplined enough to be able to know that we don’t churn out news that can cause a lot of damage in the society, then the government itself must be proactive enough to find a way to control it.”

Akeredolu’s posture elicited a sharp rebuke from some CSOs leaders, who described him as a military apologist, and urged Nigerians not to be shocked by the governor’s stance.

CSOs blast Akeredolu, dismiss him as military apologist

Peeved at Akeredolu’s stance, some CSOs, yesterday, blasted him.

Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said: “Governor Akeredolu served a military administration as the Attorney-General in Ondo State, he was the closest apologist of the military, but sadly, this trait has not left him as an enabler of dictatorship and anti-democratic forces.

“Nigerians should not be shocked by Akeredolu’s shameful support for the illegal freezing of the #EndSARS protestors’ bank account and the unconscionable call for the regulation of social media, he has never been a pro-rule of law person to the heart, even as NBA President.’’

Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, said: “This is a very shocking statement if truly the Ondo State Governor said  that he sees nothing wrong in freezing accounts of #EndSARS protesters and also supporting regulation of social media. It is really surprising that this is coming from a constitutional lawyer.

“Nigerians should be shocked because this is a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and he has made this kind of unbelievable comment and does not see anything wrong undermining and violating the fundamental human rights of Nigerians expressed through peaceful means to express their concerns and grievances. I think this is really sad and it is unfortunate because what goes up must come down.

“We had a situation where  current leaders at various levels, when maltreated by previous regimes  came out to protest, mobilize resources to defend their course and nobody froze their accounts, intimidated and arrested them. Now they don’t want other people to genuinely, democratically, responsibly, constitution-ally raise their concern.

“This is really sad and this is not democracy, even during the military regimes Nigerians expressed their minds through peaceful protest. Protest is part of democratic culture in every part of the world.’’

The Country Director, Global Rights Nigeria, Abiodun Baiyewu, said: “I think we are in dire times and  we must recognize that government is becoming so desperate and   increasingly unreasonable. Akeredolu, a SAN, ought to understand better the rule of law and what a basically decent society should look like. Apparently, he would rather be aligned to draconian governance than walking a straight path.’’

President and Founder Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria, PMNN, Yahaya Ndu, said: “A bad workman always quarrels with his tools and the #EndSARS protests is, as far as I am concerned, a tool that can be turned to public good.

“Why is it that it is easy for government to uncover and freeze accounts of supposed supporters of #EndSARS protests but the same government in five years has not uncovered and frozen the account of sponsors of Boko Haram?’’

“I see the EndSARS protests as an indication or rather a confirmation that there is something funda-mentally dysfunctional in our governance mecha-nism. If we look earnestly, we can see that universities are still on strike.  Medical workers are also on strike in some states. These should serve as pointers that we need to rework our governance mechanism and make them mass participatory and all inclusive so we can move forward together as one.’’

Akeredolu shouldn’t lend his voice to tyranny – Afenifere

Reacting to Akeredolu’s position, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, warned the governor against throwing his weight behind tyranny.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “The governor was a President of  NBA, who should not lend his weight to tyranny. He is backing illegal freezing of constitutionally recognized protesters accounts while the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr. Malami is asking the United Arab Emirates, UAE, to give him records of trials of Nigerian Boko Haram funders in UAE so he can determine whether justice was done. I don’t think Mr. Governor with his pedigree would say indiscriminate freezing of accounts like a junta is an idea of justice.

“We expect his (Akeredolu’s) media people to say he was not quoted correctly as we don’t see him as one of these fascist elements riding roughshod over the country.”

M-Belt Forum berates Akeredolu

The Middle Belt Forum, MBF, said that Governor Akeredolu was working against the Nigerian constitution for endorsing the ongoing prosecution of members of #EndSARS protesters and supporters by the Federal Government

National President of the Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, in a telephone conversation with Vanguard in Abuja, described the governor’s position as very sad and tantamount to what obtained in autocratic environment.

His words:  “Is he (Akeredolu) saying they should be prosecuted? That is very sad. It is sad; it means he is not even a democrat. He is not living in democracy. He is living in authoritarian government and not democracy.

“In a democracy, we have legitimate right to peacefully protest against the things that the government is doing that is not right. It is allowed in our constitution. Anybody going against the constitution of the country is going against our democracy, whether he is a governor or whoever he is.’’

Linking protesters with acts of terror won’t stand – NBA

Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Ralph Nduka, said though Akeredolu might have spoken from informed position, many Nigerians doubt the government and its’ workers.

“The Governor of Ondo State is cerebral. I believe that whenever he speaks he speaks from an informed position. But then, the average Nigerian finds it difficult to believe the government and those acting on its behalf. The timing of all these actions speak volumes. People protested peacefully (which the law allows), the government gave an impression that they’ve heard the complaints of the protesters, the protesters were skeptical and demanded that concrete steps be taken.

‘’Up till date, nothing concrete has been set in motion to address their agitations, except to hound some visible protesters. Does it give an impression that our government actually listened to the issues raised by the protesters? Definitely not. The average observer will simply conclude that the government sees any raised voice as a dissident voice and thus will ensure that no voice speaks up against any wrong going on in the society.

“This is sad. This unfortunately cannot be explained away. Nobody will buy any story linking the protesters with acts of terror.”

Treat issue with utmost care, PANDEF tells FG

The National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd, advised the Federal Government to treat the #EndSARS protest issue with utmost care, regardless of what any governor or anybody says.

Nkanga made the assertion yesterday while reacting to the statement by Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, that there was nothing wrong in freezing the bank accounts of #EndSARS protesters.

His words: “Let’s be very honest. Some of the governors cannot stand up for the rights of their people in this country. They stand up and say things that will fester their nest. Maybe they have something they are looking for from the central government or from the party in the centre, so they have to play down the issue at the detriment of their people.

“And the destiny of this country I’m afraid is not in the hands of governors. If we leave it in the hands of the governors, we may have cause to lament. We don’t know how some of them got into power, so they have to play to the gallery sometimes.

“My advice is for the Federal Government to make sure they treat this issue with utmost care. Those young men that protested stated their reason, so the Federal Government should make sure it does what is right, regardless of what a governor or anybody for that matter says, so we don’t have a second wave of the crisis.”

Court grants 5 Abuja #EndSARS protesters, female journalist bail

Meanwhile, a Chief Magistrates’ Court in Wuse zone 2, Abuja, yesterday granted bail to five #EndSARS protesters  who were arrested by security forces at the National Assembly as they were rounding off their protest demanding widespread governmental reforms.

READ ALSO: #Endsars activists raise alarm on impersonation by ‘unscrupulous individual’

Also, granted bail was Oluwatosin Adeniji,a female journalist, who was covering the demonstration last Friday.

The six are to appear in court on January 25, 2020 for trial.

The five male protesters were identified as Yaziru Bashiru, Abdulsalam Suberu, Kabiru Gazali, Paul Akinwunmi, and Davo Chomo.

Chief Magistrate, Abdulrazak Eneye, granted the six youths bail after hearing the application by their counsel.

Lawyer for the remanded six, Tope Akinyode, had presented an oral application, seeking the court to grant them bail.

However, the magistrate in charge of their case decided to strike out the lawyer’s oral application for bail, demanding that they present a written request.

In granting the six youths bail to the tune of N50,000 each, Eneye stated that they must present six sureties.

Last week, the court had remanded the five protesters and one journalist on “allegations of unlawful assembly and wanting to disburb societal peace.”

You can’t kill #ENDSARS with terror, SMBLF tells Buhari

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, yesterday, tackled President Muhammadu Buhari over the clampdown on the EndSARS protesters, warning that the president cannot kill the  protesters’ demands with terror.

In a joint statement by Yinka Odumakin (South West), Chief Guy Ikokwu (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt), the leaders also warned the Presidency that “Mafia means and state terror can’t give good outcome as we have gone past that stage.”

The statement read: “We did not miss the projection when we interpreted President Buhari’s regrets of his accepting the #EndSARS demands quickly as being seen as a sign of weakness in his last broadcast as a declaration that he would bare his fangs and ruthlessly deal with the protesters after the unwarranted and wicked killings of some of them at Lekki Toll Gate and other places.

“In a clear demonstration that the people except those who fawn around him have forfeited the confidence of his government, we have not missed all the divisive and repressive steps the Federal Government has taken so far after the dust settled.

“Let us state clearly first that we are not in any way impressed by the belated and after-thought measure of sending some Kaduna delegates like the Chief of Staff and the IGP round the non-Arewa sections of the country with a script to manipulate support for the ruthless killings of our young people and the barbaric desire to clamp down on social media as we have seen in the communiques of the safaris to the South-East and South-West. We see the denial by Oyo Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde that the South-West did not canvass the clampdown on social media as a signal that the foot soldiers of the regime are deceiving themselves to colour the good points our people made at those sessions with the stinking propaganda of deluded colonial lords in Abuja.

“If we had a proper government, what should be happening now is proper healing and ensuring we do not have to go through that route again.

“But as if implementing the unreleased decisions of the sectional and divisive Kaduna meeting, we have seen the branding of the protesters with all kinds of odious propaganda the latest being the CBN Governor labeling them ‘terrorists.’ He should have a proper definition of terrorism serving a government that was once accused of paying €3m to Boko Haram by WSJ and whose governors pose every now and then with bandits they are cuddling.

“The various jail houses across the country are reportedly filled with detained #EndSARS protesters in a Gulag Archipelago style by the tyrannical use of state power that led to the crisis showing those who are the problem cannot bring solution.

“There have been reports of preventing leaders and supporters of the protest from traveling and alleged seizures of their traveling documents and freezing of their bank accounts without court process at a time the Attorney General of the Federation is asking UAE authorities   to give him the records of trials of six Nigerian Boko Haram funders convicted in that country by the highest court so he can certify whether justice was done or not.

“We will be interested in knowing how money is wired to Boko Haram without the knowledge of our CBN.

“We stand with all the innocent young Nigerians that the regime is persecuting without trial at this moment without flinching as our laws deem every accused person innocent until convicted by the law.”

Freezing their accounts may trigger another protest – Ohanaeze

Indeed, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, specifically picked holes in the freezing of bank accounts of key members on the #EndSARS movement  by the Federal Government.

Ohanaeze warned that such action could trigger another protest no one knows how it would end.

In a joint statement, Acting Secretary General of Ohanaeze, Prince Uche Achi-Ogbaga, and Emeka Attamah, Media Adviser to the President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo,  the apex Igbo group said there was no need  to freeze the accounts as their protest was legitimate.

The statement read: “Protest is a legitimate weapon of complaint in a democracy. The right to protest any perceived negative action of government or organisation is upheld in the Constitution of the country. Mr. President admitted and confirmed that during the #EndSARS protest. In fact, President Buhari himself led many protests against former President Jonathan.

“The #EndSARS protest was peaceful and legitimate until some hoodlums were sent in to disrupt it and make it violent. So, freezing the accounts of the alleged leaders of the protest is high-handed, ill-advised and unnecessarily vindictive.

“Moreover, it has the capacity of triggering off another wave of protest, the end of which nobody can fathom. The frozen accounts should be released immediately to allow sleeping dogs lie. Some people are sponsoring Boko Haram, have they frozen their accounts?

“The protesters were peaceful until some SUVs were seen in viral videos dropping hoodlums that started causing chaos. Have they fished out the people? Let this government be sincere to itself.”

FG’s approach wrong – Concerned Professionals

Also, Concerned Professionals in a joint statement by Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN;  Dr. Isuwa Dogo;  Femi Falana, SAN; Pastor Ituah Ighodalo; Olutola Mobolurin; and Prof. Pat Utomi, said the #EndSARS campaign would have made the government adopt a more realistic approach to solving the problems confronting this country which led the youths to go on peaceful protests but the reverse is the case.

‘’It is unfortunate that rather than developing trust in the youths that their complaints would be convincingly addressed as promised when the protests were on, the government has embarked on victimization and witch-hunting of sponsors of the protests by seizing their passports, arresting and detaining them sometimes with spurious charges and freezing the accounts of the said sponsors.

‘’Sad, the government that is not trusted by the people, which led to the elongation of the protests, is behaving in a way that further undermines the people’s trust in government. There is clearly a betrayal of trust and breach of good faith in the negotiation with the #EndSARS youths. It is the promise to look into the complaints of the youths that made many people counsel an end to the protests. The recent approach of the government is a reinforcement of the lack of trust the youths have about the government from the onset.

‘’It is regrettable that some magistrates and judges are being used to deny citizens their fundamental rights of hearing and sanctioning illegality by denying bail for ordinarily bailable allegations and freezing orders of the Central Bank of Nigeria by way of ex parte application to freeze the accounts of the leaders of the protesters for six whole months! It is certain that the CBN lacks the locus to trigger such process in the context of these events in the first instance. The courts are being manipulated by those who feel threatened by the awakening of the youths. We expect the judiciary to appreciate the issues involved in the cases before them and be part of the social re-engineering of the Country, by treating cases in the pragmatic manner.

We have seen all this before and we know where it will take us. A dictatorship is obviously being slowly but obdurately unwrapped.

“We condemn the victimization efforts being visited on the EndSARS protesters in totality, urge maturity on the part of the government and stop the adoption of undemocratic and inhuman method in dealing with the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests. Protest is a constitutional and democratic right which cannot earn the kind of victimisation going on.

“We, therefore, urge the government to implement the five-for-five accepted demands of the youths and engage them genuinely. No amount of intimidation or harassment will work as it will only exacerbate tensions in an otherwise fragile polity.

“Fundamental human rights are universally cherished rights. The country, especially in its current economic strait should avoid becoming a pariah state as its youths are forced into exile as in the NADECO days. The news of the appearance of one of the activists of #EndSARS in Canada is ominous. Our youths must not be made exiles just for speaking up neither must they come to harm in the country. We cannot turn our youths into zombies. They are assets to us and they are the future we dream of and the hope of those who seek the lost glory we sought in our youth but dashed by the poor governance choices we made in the last 30 years. We must give them a voice and a chance to recapture what we lost,’’ they added.

No comments — Lai Mohammed

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, yesterday declined to comment on the alleged freezing of accounts belonging to some perceived actors in the peaceful #EndSARS protests by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, saying he has been constrained to comment on the matter.

Alhaji Mohammed said he was not competent to comment on the matter because the case against the perceived leaders pending in court.

When asked whether the federal government was responsible for the measures taken against the #EndSARS protesters because of their roles in the protest during the media briefing at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister said he could not talk on the issues because of the various panels of inquiry set up by state governments.

He said: “I’m a bit constrained about addressing this issue because I know that various states have set up panels of inquiry to look into the entire #EndSARS protests with very defined terms of reference.

“So, any attempt from me now to second guess or try to defend or proffer answers to any questions would be improper.”

Igbo group disowns Okeke over lawsuit

Similarly, the Conference of Igbo Youth Professional Worldwide has dissociated itself from the action of Mr Kenechukwu Okeke over his lawsuit against the Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Sam Adeyemi and 49 alleged promoters of the #EndSARS protests.

The group with wide network across the world also disowned the acclaimed activist, saying he was not known in their fold or in the South-East geopolitical region.

This was as it dissociated President Buhari from the action of Mr Okeke,alleging that he was being sponsored by those it described as “fifth columnists” to paint the president and his administration black in the eyes of the world.”

To this end, the Igbo group, in a statement, yesterday,  by its President General, Barr. Maduabuchi Nwodo,appealed to Nigerians to disregard the antics of Mr Okeke and his alleged sponsors.

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