Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Portal Welby urging him to use his good offices and leadership and his “friendship with President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on him to obey court orders most recently involving activists Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare who remain in arbitrary detention despite a court order for their release.”
SERAP expressed “serious concerns about the disturbing trends by state governments and federal government to use the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights.”
In the letter dated 11 November 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “We believe you can use your leadership position and influence to persuade President Buhari to promote the rule of law in words and in action by obeying all court orders including the order for the releasing of Mr Sowore and Mr Bakare from arbitrary detention.”
SERAP also said, “As the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, we believe you can reaffirm your belief in justice, rule of law and the basic human rights of all people by speaking out with a strong voice against the repeated disobedience of court orders and the implicitly lack of respect by the government for the integrity and authority of the Nigerian judiciary.”
The letter read in part: “Taking a stance on the issues of the rule of law and respect for court orders in Nigeria will also contribute to ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law by the 36 state governments in Nigeria, as these governments seem to be taking their cue from the federal authorities regarding disobedience of court orders.
“Journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari, simply for exercising their human rights. Mr Sowore, was arrested on August 3 by Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) for planning a protest.
“Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted Sowore and Bakare bail but the security agents have continued to refuse to release them despite being served with the court orders. This refusal implicitly violates the defendants’ constitutional rights to presumption of innocence.
“We therefore respectfully call on you to speak out on the repeated disobedience of court orders by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and urge him to obey all court orders including the orders for the release of Mr Sowore and Mr Bakare from arbitrary detention.”
Specifically, SERAP asked Most Revd Justin Portal Welby to:
- Clearly and publicly condemn lack of respect for the rule of law and court orders in Nigeria
- Call for the release of Mr Sowore and Mr Bakare from detention as ordered by the court
- Call for greater legal protections for human rights activists and journalists in Nigeria who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression and working to hold their leaders to account.