…Says it Breaches His Fundamental Human Rights …Groups Deplore Repression, Arrests of Protesters The Presidential Candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 2019 General Elections, Mr Omoyele Sowore, on Friday applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja to set aside its order permitting the Department of State Services (DSS) to detain
…Says it Breaches His Fundamental Human Rights
…Groups Deplore Repression, Arrests of Protesters
The Presidential Candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 2019 General Elections, Mr Omoyele Sowore, on Friday applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja to set aside its order permitting the Department of State Services (DSS) to detain him for 45 days. This is coming against widespread slamming of the security forces of the arrests and repression of both organisers and citizens who heeded the call to join the RevolutionNow protests around the country.
Sowore, a prime mover of the #RevolutionNow protests, through his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), posited, among others in the 19-ground application, that the order issued by the court breached his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights.
The publisher of the online news medium, Sahara Reporters, added that the order of court amounted to “legalising the illegality” of his detention for about four days prior to the issuance of the court order on Thursday.
Filed along with his application on Friday was an affidavit of urgency seeking an urgent hearing of the suit on the grounds that it “is one of fundamental importance that affects salient fundamental rights of the applicant herein.”
Operatives of the DSS in the wee hours of Saturday, August 3, arrested Sowore in a Lagos hotel over his call for revolution ahead of the #RevolutionNow protests which held in some parts of the country on Monday.
Ruling on an ex parte application by the security agency to detain Sowore for 90 days to investigate him for treason-related allegations, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on Thursday granted the agency permission to hold the activist for 45 days.
According to the judge, the 45-day period, starting from Thursday, lapses on September 21, the date he also fixed for the next hearing of the case.
He, however, added that the order of detention for 45 days was subject to renewal for further days upon an application by the security agency, in the event that its investigation could not be concluded within the first 45 days.
Meanwhile there has been a widespread condemnation of the repression and arrests by security forces of both organisers and those who heeded the call to join the Monday, August 5 protests
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to all member and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urging them to “urgently convene a special session on Nigeria over arbitrary arrests and repression by officers of the Nigeria Police Force and other security forces of ‘RevolutionNow’ protesters, organizers, activists, and journalists who covered the protests on Monday across the country.”
SERAP also raised: “concern over suppression of freedom of expression, attacks on journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders by several state governments, as well as the intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International in Nigeria, including by a group of apparently paid protesters that continues to besiege the organization’s office in Abuja, preventing it from carrying out its activities, and giving the organization ultimatum to leave Nigeria.”
In the letter dated 8 August 2019 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “There are serious violations of the rights of Nigerians to liberty, personal security, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and media freedom and a Special Session is urgently needed to help stem the attack on human rights and contribute to UN efforts to prevent further abuses including arbitrary detention and excessive use of force.”
The organization said: “The human rights situation in the country has drastically deteriorated, with the authorities at the Federal and State levels violating human rights and refusing to obey court judgments. The Human Rights Council should heed the rising chorus of concerns by Nigerians, journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and lawyers, and urgently convene a Special Session on the growing human rights crisis in the country.”
The organization also said: “Consistent with its mandate to prevent human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies, the Human Rights Council should address the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in several states of Nigeria as a matter of priority.”
If one third of the Member States requests so, the Human Rights Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies. The Council is made of 47 Member States—13 from Africa; 13 from Asia; 8 from Latin America and Caribbean; 7 from Western European and other States and 6 from Eastern Europe.
The letter read in part: “We urge your delegation to actively support the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council without delay and the adoption of a resolution that ensures meaningful attention to the situation with a view to stemming the abuses and ending impunity.”
“The Human Rights Council cannot ignore persistent attacks on human rights and disregard for the rule of law in Nigeria. If the Human Rights Council does not assume its responsibility and give voice to the victims, it would exacerbate the impunity of perpetrators and continue to fuel further abuses.”
“At the Special Session, the Council should adopt a resolution that urges the Nigerian authorities at the Federal and State levels to respect the peoples’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and association as guaranteed in UN human rights treaties ratified by Nigeria and to refrain from using excessive force to disperse protesters and against journalists.”
“The Council should urge the Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained in connection with the ‘RevolutionNow’ protests across Nigeria simply for exercising their human rights to protest and freedom of expression.”
“The Council should urge the Nigerian authorities at Federal and State levels to stop harassing and intimidating Nigerian citizens including peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, and others.
The decision of the Federal Government to successfully obtain an exparte order from a Federal High Court anchored on the Anti-terrorism Act against Sowore, the leader of the RevolutionNow protest movement, has been described as the height of executive recklessness and abuse of power.
The declaration was made by a rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), against the backdrop of the order by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court based on the application against Mr. Sowore by the DSS under the provision of section 27(1) of the Terrorism (prevention) amendment Act.
HURIWA condemned the action of the Federal Government to even institute the charge against “Sowore just for planning to call for a nationwide civil protest devoid of violence while actively dialoguing with armed bandits in Zamfara and has on many occasions freed arrested hardened terrorists of the Boko Haram terror networks and armed flank herdsmen under the deceptive guise of being deradicalised, amounted to a flagrant breach of the constitutional oath of office sworn to by President Muhammadu Buhari and is a violation of section 15(5) of the constitution which obliges government to eschew abuse of power.”
The rights group also stated that since the presiding judge has the discretionary powers of bail, he ought to have exercised that in favour of Sowore who is totally non-violent since even section 36(5) of the constitution which is higher in status to the Anti-Terrorism Act stated unambiguously that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty.”
HURIWA said the Judge cannot therefore be heard saying that he cannot exercise his discretionary powers to grant bail to Sowore who, as far as available information is concerned is a non-violent agitator for good governance, and noted that judges are granted judicial discretion to grant or refuse bail. This means that the issue of bail is at the discretion of the judge.
The rights group expressed shock at the granting of the prolonged detention of Sowore, stating: “Are we no longer living under a constitutional democracy? Why keep a citizen for more than a month when the constitution recognises that he is innocent until proven guilty?
“We are shocked at the rate of institutionalisation of injustice and unfairness by President Buhari who on one hand has authorised dialogues with armed bandits and terrorists who have killed over 27,000 Nigerians whereas he has instructed the DSS working under him to file charges of terrorism against a blogger and an activist Mr. Sowore who is alleged to have expressed the determination of his platform named #RevolutionNow to stage a nation-wide civil protests to agitate for fundamental changes in the state of insecurity in Nigeria.
“Is the judge now over-ruling the plethora of Supreme Court decisions which are to the considered effect that the granting of bail is within the discretion of the presiding judge?” By the way, why should the court or any government agency such as DSS hide under some nebulous provisions of a statute to subject a citizen to the denial of his fundamental freedoms of movement and liberty even when the constitution says he is innocent until the court determines otherwise?
“Why arrest a citizen if you, as an agency of government, is yet to wrap up your investigations? Who pays for the denial of his freedoms if the investigation turns up constructively positive in the favour of the man whose civil liberty is being caged courtesy of a misapplication of the law?
“The decision of this Federal High court will surely undermine civil liberty and the constitutional freedoms because for the government to simply pick up someone it considers as a dissident and without enough evidence to now walk leisurely into the Federal High Court after days of illegally detaining the citizen and successfully get the nod of the court to continue to embark on a voyage of discovery and search for any sort of evidence whereas the freedoms of the detainee is being infringed upon is a set back to the years of civil rule that we have witnessed.
“If the court is no longer the hope of the common man since the oppressive government can simply and arbitrarily arrest its opponents and bring up any sort of charges and still succeed in getting the court to permit the prolonged detention of a citizen, so the government can go about seeking to procure evidence no matter how contrived then we are doomed as a nation. The judiciary must not be part of the reactionary elements that seek to destroy constitutional democracy.”
Also, the Yoruba socio political group, Afenifere, has condemned and views with great concern the 45-day detention without trial granted the DSS by a Federal High Court on Omoyele Sowore over his call for a protest on Monday.
According to its spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakun in a statement on Friday, the order represents a new phase in the orchestrated conscription of the democratic space in Nigeria .
Said he, “We are aware of that obnoxious provision in the Terrorism Act, but it can never assume superiority over the Constitution which stipulates that a citizen cannot be detained for more than 48 hours before being charged to court”.
It argued further that Sowore was actually arrested before he could commit an offence adding that “the DSS seems to want to go shopping for evidence to prosecute him.”
Afenifere contended further that having failed to allow him to commit the offense before he was peremptorily arrested, “the DSS should free Sowore or charge him to court so the judicial process” can take its course .
The group added that as things stand now,” Sowore is only being held illegally using the legal process.”
“Our advice to government is that it should understand and act in conformity with the democratic tenets in dealing with the rights of Nigerians.” It concluded