Breaking News

Row Grows Over Sowore as Presidency, Groups Clash

The controversy over the re-arrest of Omoyele Sowore continued on Monday.

Civil Society groups and others demanded his immediate release but the Presidency said his re-arrest “is not a desecration of the temple of justice”.

The rights group said Sowore’s re-arrest is an affront on the judiciary but the Presidency said millions of Nigerians are not worried by the activist-turned politician’s ordeal.

Sowore was re-arrested at a Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday.

Addressing reporters in Abuja yesterday,  a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), including Amnesty International, gave the Federal Government a 14-day ultimatum to release Sowore.

The CSOs, whose statement was read by ‘Yemi Adamolekun, of Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria), said they would occupy the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) offices  nationwide, if the government failed to free Sowore.

“We shall  call on patriots to join us as we occupy the NHRC  offices across the country, as it is legally mandated to protect rights and it reports to the Presidency if our demands are not met,” they warned.

The statement was signed by Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International (Nigeria); Idayat Hassan, Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD); Auwal Musa, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Deji Adeyanju, Concerned Nigerians;  Adamolekun of the EiE Nigeria; Lanre Suraj, (HEDA) & People’s Alternative Front; Kola Ogundare, Socio-Economic Right And Accountability Project (SERAP);Jaye Gaskia, Take Back Nigeria (TBN); Biola Akiode-Afolabi, Women Advocates Research; and Documentation Centre (WARDC) & Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).

The statement titled ‘Nigeria’s Troubling State of Affairs’ had the underlisted as their  other demands:
  • President Muhammadu Buhari should show accountability and address the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights;
  • release all illegally detained persons by the DSS as revealed by Amnesty and the media in recent months;
  • government should obey all outstanding court orders; and
  • order the investigation of the officers who violated protocol and the circumstances leading to Sowore’s  latest ordeal.
The groups said  as the world celebrates Human Rights Day, today, they “ review the crackdown on the freedom of the press; proposed bills to curb dissent and a general environment of shrinking civic space of which the recent actions of our security agencies are just an example.”

“Two key issues are of concern to us, namely; attack on our judiciary and attack on free speech and pattern of silencing dissent,” they said.

Reacting to the outrage over the Sowore saga, Presidential Spokesman Femi Adesina,   argued that millions of Nigerians were not bothered about the re-arrest of Sowore.

Adesina, who spoke on a Channels Television programme, added that the re-arrest Sowore within the court premises was “not a desecration of the temple of justice.”
Like the DSS, he argued that the video of the arrest being circulated on social media was  concocted and did  not reflect what transpired.

He said, “It depends on what is real, what is the concocted story or what is the reality.

“We have heard a concocted story with a concocted video or incomplete video and then the DSS has come out to give its own perspective and I think that gives a fairly balanced texture.

“If you are fair-minded; you are balanced; you are neutral, I’m sure you will have a balanced perspective of what happened. So, as far as I am concerned, if you ask my opinion, I think it was not a desecration of the temple of justice because the DSS has explained how things played out.

“I don’t particularly agree with you. When you say a lot of Nigerians …you know that all this noise is coming from less than 100 thousand Nigerians and the noise will be so loud that you think it is the whole country.

“It is a country of 198 million people. When just 100,000 are making noise in the social and traditional media, you would think the whole country is in an uproar. There are millions and millions of people who are not bothered.

“There are millions and millions of people who understand what the issues are. So, you can’t just say this is the opinion of a vocal minority and you then conclude that the country is in an uproar. That is not correct”
He also said the comments by Femi Falana, counsel to Sowore, should not be treated as a balanced perspective because of his interest in the case.

“Falana is not a neutral party, we know the side where he belongs to in this matter; therefore, his opinion will not count much,” he said.

“If you want a balanced perspective, you listen to him, you listen to the DSS and you can come to what a fairly balanced perspective should be. Mr Falana is an interested party, so I won’t take his words 100 per cent.”

But the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) disagreed with Adesina, saying he should apologise to Nigerians.

Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa,   said such statement   by the Presidential spokesman was unfortunate and should be withdrawn immediately.

Musa said, “It is a very unfortunate situation because if the government does not care  about the views of its citizens, then it shows how irresponsible they are. Every Nigerian should be of concern to the government. Now if you say 100, 000, where did you even get the data?

“In any case, are you saying 100, 000 people are not people. Are they not Nigerians? Public officers should be very careful with what they say because it would haunt them in future. Because when you are saying 100, 000 do not matter, it means you are not even competent to be a public officer, because every Nigerian’s right must be protected.

“So far as our interests are not protected by the government, then there is a problem. This kind of careless statements by public officials would haunt them tomorrow. Tomorrow they may be victims of the same human rights abuses.”

“If he says 100, 000 are not important. I think he should better withdraw that statement and apologize. Every single Nigerian matters. In other countries even an individual is important.”

The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), also condemned the “reckless display of brutality and lawlessness” by the DSS last Friday.

It called on President   Buhari to penalize  the DSS agents involved in the invasion of the court  and  the agency’s leadership in order to” reassure Nigerians and the international community that they were not acting under his instructions.”

The group stressed that “the brazen acts of disrespect to the court and disobedience of its orders  should not go unpunished.”

It   urged  the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)   to   investigate human rights situation in Nigeria as “the country was  facing a rapid descent into totalitarianism and tyranny.”

No comments