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#RevolutionNow protest: EU backs freedom of speech in Nigeria

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THE European Union (EU) on Thursday threw its weight behind the principles of freedom of expression in Nigeria, saying it remains fundamental in any democratic dispensation.

Ketil Karlsen, the EU envoy to Nigeria disclosed this while reacting to the #RevolutionNow protest held in selected parts of the country and eventual arrest of Omoyele Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporters newspaper.

“The European Union stands firm on the principles of freedom of speech and our fundamental values. Of course, it is important in any democratic society for people to be able to participate,” says Karlsen, adding that he was not aware of any petition from the protesters to report poor governance of the current administration.

“I am not aware of any petition following the latest events in Nigeria but what I can say is that as long as people seek peaceful means to demonstrate and voice their political opinion, this is what we see as a natural part of a thriving democracy.”

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But he said the responsibility still lies with the Federal Government to manage its internal affairs in line with provisions of the judicial system as it would be inappropriate for the EU to judge if the action taken against Sowore was right or otherwise.

According to an exclusive interview with Punch, Karlsen spoke at an orientation programme held for the 2019 Erasmus+ Scholarship Awardees in Abuja.

“Of course, any democracy or any society in the world must jealously guard and make sure that such pronouncements are always non-violent and that they respect the fundamental rules of the game and democracy at the end of the day and it is for the Nigerian justice system, in the end, to follow up on specific cases and as long as these cases are being dealt with in the Nigerian justice system, it is not for the EU or the EU ambassador to judge what is right or wrong in these occasions but of course we always follow very carefully when there are dissenting voices in the countries where we operate and we listen very carefully to all of them,” he added.

Sowore was arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) for allegedly planning to overthrow the government. But lawyers and other human right activists had insisted the accused has the right to express himself, public gathering as well as freedom of opinion.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo the Abuja Federal High Court, Thursday morning, earlier granted the request of the DSS to further detain the activist beyond the statutory 48 hours to 45 days pending investigation for the alleged offense committed.

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