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Sowore, Bakare are not terrorists, SERAP replies Presidency

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THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has berated the presidency for comparing embattled activist and former presidential candidate at the last general election, Omoyele Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare to Boko Haram militants.

Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson had in a statement released today compared Sowore’s call for revolution with Boko Haram militants atrocities in the North East.

“The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution,” Shehu had said in the statement.

But SERAP in a series of tweets on its official twitter handle said, it was unacceptable to compare citizens who are also activists simply exercising their human rights with militants who are ‘killing our people and destroying property.’

It also said what is happening to Sowore and Bakare shows clear attempts by the Nigerian authorities to further silence critics, activists and the media while they continue to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

SERAP statement reads, “We condemn the statement today by @NigeriaGov issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Muhammadu Buhari, which seems to compare Sowore with Boko Haram militants.”

“To be absolutely clear: Sowore and Bakare are not terrorists.”

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“It’s unacceptable to compare citizens who are also activists simply exercising their human rights including to freedom of expression with militants who are killing our people and destroying property.”

“Freedom of expression is not yet a crime under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).”

“What is happening to Sowore and Bakare shows clear attempts by the Nigerian authorities to further silence critics, activists and the media while they continue to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.”

“This is illustrated through a persistent disobedience of court orders, and as we witnessed last week, the invasion of Justice Ojukwu’s court by the DSS.”

“The persecution of Sowore and Bakare is sending a chilling and unambiguous message to all Nigerians, and is part of a systematic effort to silence independent media and critical voices in Nigeria to prevent public scrutiny of governments at both the Federal and state levels.”

“Nigerian authorities now need to begin to protect citizens’ human rights and the rule of law. That should start with the immediate withdrawal of the bogus charges against Sowore and Bakare and the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore from arbitrary detention.”

“We are concerned that Nigerian authorities continue to openly scorn the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s human rights commitments.”

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“This concerted attack on the rule of law must stop. The UN, African Union, African commission on human and peoples’ rights and members of the international community can make a unique impact by speaking forcefully and publicly in defense of human rights, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Nigeria.”

It would be recalled that operatives of the DSS had on Friday stormed the Federal High Court, Abuja to effect the arrest of Sowore and Bakare barely 24 hours after they were released on bail from detention on the order of the court.

Sowore and Bakare were arrested by the operatives of DSS on August 3, 2019, at about 1:25 am according to a distress tweet he posted just before his phone was confiscated.

Both detainees are facing seven-count charge bordering on conspiracy to commit treasonable felony, money laundering and cybercrimes, amongst others.

But after spending 124 days in the DSS custody, they were released on Thursday night, following an order given by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja who gave the security agency a 24-hour ultimatum to effect the bail order earlier issued.

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