CIVIL society organisations (CSO) have cautioned the Federal Government of Nigeria over intimidation of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), human rights defenders and journalists in the country.
This was contained in a statement by a coalition of CSOs signed by Amnesty International on Wednesday.
“We, the undersigned civil society organisations urge the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari to put an end to the intimidation and harassment of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), an independent anti-corruption watchdog, and end escalating intimidation and aggression towards human rights defenders and journalists,” it read.
The CSOs referred to a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, warning SERAP to desist from putting out divisive content after the latest suit by the organisation against the government of Muhammadu Buhari.
“We are seriously concerned that this intimidatory tactic by the Buhari administration against SERAP solely for peacefully carrying out its mandates illustrates the growing repression of civil society, attacks on journalists, and restriction of civic space in Nigeria,” it read.
The organisations noted that attacks and intimidation of the civil society went contrary to Nigeria’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The statement also noted that the climate of intimidation being created would negatively affect human rights protection and urged the government to condemn such acts of harassment.
“The Government must strongly condemn the threat, harassment and intimidation of SERAP and other groups, human rights defenders and journalists and ensure a conducive environment for them to carry out their work and operate freely without any fear of reprisals,” it read.
Last week, Shehu had released a statement warning SERAP to desist from what he described as publicity stunts.
He said the organisation’s claims of bringing legal action against the government were ridiculous as they had not taken any of their legal actions to a logical conclusion.
“We call on SERAP to cease its divisive, irresponsible, and bare-faced publicity stunts and instead to follow through on its latest spurious legal claim in a Nigerian court of law. Let them challenge the government publicly, legally and transparently.
“And while they do so, let them reveal in full view of the nation who they are, and who is funding them,” he said.
Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via email@example.com or @ije_le on Twitter.