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SERAP, in a statement signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, addressed a letter to Chairman/Rapporteur of UNWGAD Elina Steinert, saying that the arrest and continued detention of the two activists were a violation of their human rights.
Oluwadare noted that Nigerian authorities had violated their right to freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and their right to due process of law as guaranteed under the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) and international law.
He argued that their continued detention did not have any legal justification and was short of international standards of due process.
SERAP, therefore, called on the Working Group to initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the cases of Emmanuel and Udoka, and to urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian government and Kogi State authorities inquiring about the case generally, and specifically about the legal basis for their arrest, detention, and ill-treatment – each of which was in violation of international law.
It also urged the Working Group to “issue an opinion declaring that their deprivation of liberty and detention is arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s constitution and obligations under international law.”
“We urge the Working Group to request the Nigerian and Kogi State authorities to investigate and hold accountable all persons responsible for the unlawful arrest, continued detention, and ill-treatment of Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka in Kogi State,” parts of the statement said.
SERAP also called on the Working Group “to request the Nigerian and Kogi State authorities to award Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka adequate compensation for the violations they have endured as a result of their unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment.”
“Pursuant to the mandate of the Working Group, the Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and the publication Working with the UN Human Rights Programme, a Handbook for Civil Society”, SERAP, a non-governmental human rights organisation, said.
SERAP said President Buhari had a responsibility under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and international law to protect the safety and rights of protesters and create an environment conducive to a diverse and pluralistic expression of ideas and peaceful dissent from government policy.
The organisation noted that institutions and authorities under the Buhari’s administration had been failing to meet the demands of Nigerians regarding respect of human rights, end to restrictions on civic space, obedience to court orders and the rule of law. It said the failure to hold to account those responsible for violating the rights of Nigerians had continued to increase the vulnerability of protesters and activists in the country.
It urged that UNWGAD should put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to take all measures to protect peaceful protesters, demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience and full respect for the rule of law.
“We urge you to put pressure on the Nigerian and Kogi State authorities to make clear that they will not tolerate violent attacks on protesters. The authorities have a responsibility both to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to protect protesters from violent attack.
“Emmanuel Larry and Victor Anen Udoka’s social activism and calls for peaceful protests led to escalating government harassment and their eventual arrest and detention. They are two of several youths who have been protesting against the Federal government.”
The duo had staged a ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ protest in April 2021, before they were arrested and locked up and prevented from seeing their families by the state police command.
Their lawyer Benjamin Omeiza said he had no access to them, and while he was negotiating for their release, Kogi State quickly arranged for a magistrate to order their detention in prison, ex-parte (without notice).
They have been in prison for over 40 days afterwards. They have not been formally charged nor arraigned before any competent court of jurisdiction; neither have they been released.