Release Sowore, others within two weeks or face nationwide protests, CSOs warn FG

PROMINENT Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria have threatened to go on a nationwide protest in 14 days if Omoyele Sowore, who has been re-arrested despite a valid bail, is not released by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director of Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria while addressing journalists at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday, said the protesters would picket state offices of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) across the country.

Other CSOs at the press conference included Amnesty International (AI) Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Concerned Nigerians, and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).

“Tomorrow, December 10, the world will celebrate Human Rights Day. It will also be marked in Nigeria as we review the crackdown of 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 agents is just an example,” Adamolekun said as she read a joint statement titled Nigeria’s Struggling State of Affairs.

“We represent a core section of Nigerian civil society actors that have played various roles in Nigeria’s journey to civil rule. Two key issues are of concern to us, namely: attack on our judiciary, and attack on free speech and hazard of silencing dissent.”

The groups announced five demands and gave an ultimatum of 14 days for them to be met.

The demands included that President Muhammadu Buhari shows accountability and addresses the nation on his commitment to the rule of law and human rights and that all illegal detainees under the DSS, revealed by AI and various media reports, be released.

They also asked the government to obey all pending court orders, conduct an “investigation of officers who violated protocol and the circumstances leading to Omoyele Sowore’s second arrest”, and unconditionally release Sowore subject to his bail terms.

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, CISLAC Executive Director, urged Nigerians to see the duty of holding government accountable as a collective responsibility “because all of us are in danger”.

    He said: “If you are a journalist and you are doing your work, you are in trouble in this country. If you are in the civil society demanding accountability, transparency, and good governance, you are in trouble. Even if you are a decent, ordinary citizen who just wants to be law-abiding, you are also in trouble. So it is a collective crisis we find ourselves. It is not about the people seated here, it is about our country and our people.

    “And this same people who are perpetrating this brutality today, yesterday they were crying. In 2015 when DSS invaded APC’s data centre, they were crying. In fact, Lai Mohammed was shouting that this is the worst thing that has ever happened in Nigerian history. But today they all keep quiet, in fact justifying this gross, violent violation of fundamental human rights in Nigeria.”

    Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and convener of  #RevolutionNow campaign, was arrested in August, according to the DSS, because he called for a revolution and “for threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country”.

    He has been granted bail twice by the Federal High Court and was eventually released on Thursday after the court fined the DSS for contempt. But the following day immediately after the court proceedings, operatives of the DSS again arrested the Sahara Reporters publisher and rights activist.

    'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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