…Say it’s a Negation of Freedom of Assembly, Expression Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) have slam the Police invasion of the secretariat of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and the sealing up of the office of an online publication,
…Say it’s a Negation of Freedom of Assembly, Expression
Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) have slam the Police invasion of the secretariat of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and the sealing up of the office of an online publication, Sahara Reporters in Lagos. They say this is a gross violation of the rights of the people to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
The Police and other security forces had Wednesday morning invaded the national office of the CDHR and Sahara Reporters offices to stop a planned rally against detention of activists without trial scheduled to start by 11am. But the organisers later held the rally under the bridge at Ikeja where they called for the release of detained leader of RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore and others being held by the Department of State Security Service (DSS). Amidst solidarity songs and speeches, they also called for improvement of the living standard of the people.
In a statement signed by Falana, also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), he said that, “In spite of the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, the Police had wanted to disrupt and stop the peaceful meeting of law abiding citizens to discuss the illegal detention of Omoyele Sowore, Agba Jalingo, Abayomi Olawale and scores of others being incarcerated in various detention facilities in the country.
“Contrary to the order of the Federal High Court that Mr. Sowore be detained for 45 days, the State Security Service has incarcerated him for 47 days. Last week, the Federal High Court turned down the application for the renewal of its order for the detention of Messrs Agba Jalingo and Ekanem Ekpo for 14 days,” said Falana who is also national chairman, People’s Alternative Front (PAF).
According to him, “In spite of the expiration of the detention order of the two journalists, they are being held by the Police in Cross River. Mr. Abayomi Olawale who was arrested on August 5, 2019 has been detained for 45 days by the State Security Service without any court order whatsoever. These detainees and scores of others languishing in illegal custody ought to be released forthwith.”
While congratulating the organisers of the symposium for successfully holding the programme at another venue, Falana posited that “the harassment of law abiding citizens cannot be tolerated under a regime that is busy negotiating with bandits and terrorists and bribing them with public funds and granting them amnesty.”
On its part, SERAP urged “Nigeria’s authorities to immediately lift the siege to the offices of Sahara Reporters and CDHR, end the illegality and allow journalists, activists and civil society to operate freely.”
In a statement by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Nigeria’s security agents and state Governors should also immediately stop the nationwide campaign of arbitrary arrests against journalists, activists and protesters. The attack on Sahara Reporters and CDHR is coming on the heels of staggering crackdown on critics, journalists and activists by many state Governors.”
“The federal authorities and many state Governors are targeting journalists, critics and activists, in clear violation of Nigeria’s constitution of 1999 (as amended), and international obligations, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requiring the authorities to respect fundamental rights and the rules of law.
“These attacks are clearly aimed at silencing the kind of journalism and investigative reporting that makes federal and state governments uncomfortable. President Muhammadu Buhari now needs to make clear that he doesn’t want any part of this kind of behaviour and that unacceptable and dangerous threats and attacks against journalists, protesters and activists will be fully investigated.
“The international community including the African Union, the UN human rights special mechanisms and Treaties Bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as Nigeria’s international partners can and should push for an end to the escalating crack down on journalists, bloggers and activists, and for investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the intimidation, harassment and attacks.
“Otherwise, when state security forces carry out arbitrarily arrest and detain brave journalists and protesters like Agba Jalingo, Omoyele Sowore, and Mary Ekere and continue to get away with it, they benefit from a climate of impunity. These journalists are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.
“We strongly condemn the arrest of Mary Ekere of The Post, for taking photos of task force officials who raided a city spot, and Agba Jalingo, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of CrossRiverWatch, following his publication of an article asking Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River to come clean on the whereabouts of the N500 million that was released for the State’s Microfinance Bank,” the organisation said.
While also condemning the invasion of the two offices, Convener of CORE, Mr Olaseni Ajai, says, “That their offices could be invaded and sealed in this Gestapo like manner this morning in anticipation of protest, only confirms that the civil rights fought for over the years are crudely being removed by Buhari’s APC government.”
“The right to speech, associate, protest and even to think are no more guaranteed under this neo- regime,” he said.
However, Ajai says, “our agitation for the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore, Agba Jalingo, Abayomi Olawale (Mandate) and all others currently being held in Buhari detention centres, and for the revolutionary transformation of the country continues.”