Civil society organisations, lawyers and human rights activists are outraged over the clampdown on the #RevolutionNow protesters on Monday by security agencies.
They also flayed the government for the continued incarceration of the convener of the #RevolutionNow protests, Mr Omoyele Sowore, who was being detained by the Department of State Services for “threatening national security and public safety.”
The CSOs including the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre; the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project and 49 other civil society organisations on Tuesday faulted the manner with which the Nigerian authority clamped down on the protesters on Monday.
But despite growing opposition to his continued detention, the DSS on Tuesday applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order to allow it keep Sowore for 90 days.
Also, the police on Tuesday arraigned six persons arrested in Lagos during the #RevolutionNow protest on Monday on two counts bordering on unlawful assembly before the Lagos State Magistrates’ Court in Ebute Metta.
SERAP, CISLAC, 49 other CSOs slam FG, police DSS
But the SERAP, CISLAC and 49 other civil society organisations on Tuesday said the nation’s constitution allowed Nigerians to take part in non-violent protests.
The groups made their position known in a statement they jointly signed on Tuesday.
The statement read, “We are gravely concerned over the unlawful statement issued by the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force threatening to prosecute the organisers of the peaceful rallies in Nigeria.
“There are existing provisions of the law and judicial authorities recognising the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people to non-violently convene and participate in rallies, demonstrations and protest marches.
“Fundamentally, the provision of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons…’ is sacrosanct and must be protected.
“We, therefore, call for restraint of arbitrary misuse of power against the citizens for a non-violent protest, demonstration to express their views.
“We demand immediate release of all activists who are in detention for exercising their fundamental rights.
“We call on security agencies and government officials to ensure total compliance to the rule of law as provided for in our legal system.
“We also call on government to respect and allow the flourishing of civil space for meaningful contribution to democratic governance in Nigeria.
“We further call on government to be more accountable and responsive to the citizenry they were elected to serve for good governance”.
Groups that signed the statement include the Centre for Democracy and Development; Centre for Democratic Research and Training; Civil Society Network Against Corruption; Human and Environmental Development Agenda; Public Interest Lawyers League and Partners for West Africa – Nigeria.
Others are Centre for Information Technology and Development; Falana & Falana Chambers; CLEEN Foundation; International Refugee Rights Initiative; Zero-Corruption Coalition; Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria; Partners on Electoral Reform; State of the Union; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; National Procurement Watch Platform; Say NO Campaign – Nigeria and Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education, among others.
Action shows FG can’t tolerate criticisms – TMG
Also, the chairperson of Transition Monitoring Group, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, on Tuesday condemned the clampdown on protesters by security agencies.
According to her, the Federal Government must be above board in its disposition to the respect for fundamental human rights.
Speaking with The PUNCH, she said, “Clampdown on protesters shows the intolerance of the current government to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. There is no justification for clamping down on harmless protesters with tear gas and other weapons.
“Some of them were seen wounded and assaulted. The Federal Government must be above board in its disposition to the respect of human rights. The arrest of Omoyele Sowore without trial is a reminder that we are far from being in a democracy and that the country is free from vestiges of the military era.”
Police action illegal, says Ogunye
Also activist lawyer, Mr Jiti Ogunye, described the clampdown on the protesters by the police as unlawful, saying the court had repeatedly condemned such clampdown by the security agents.
Ogunye said, “By our criminal law, by the provisions of the constitution that guarantee the right to freedom of expression, protest and demonstrations, Section 39, and the right to form an assembly, Section 40, what the police did was illegal and unconstitutional; it is irresponsible.
“People were saying they were being proactive, proactive about what? Those who overthrew government in the past in this country, did they do it by protests? Historically in Nigeria, have you heard of a government overthrown by protests?
“The police know they don’t have the right to clamp down on the protesters. They are just behaving like a Gestapo police, who are hard of hearing and who have lost their sight. The court has repeatedly ruled on this issue.
“A police officer in Lagos, who led the disruption of the gathering, said it was an unlawful assembly because the protesters didn’t get a permit. Aren’t these people educated? Don’t they have lawyers? If they don’t have lawyers, don’t they read newspapers or watch television? The courts have ruled on this matter, that it is anachronistic to be talking about police permit and that the duty of the police is to protect those who are engaging in a procession, such that mischief-makers will not hijack the procession and cause mayhem.”
FG, police abuse protesters’ rights – CDHR, CACOL
Similarly, the National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, described the clampdown on the protesters as an abuse of fundamental rights of citizens, which the civil society would resist.
He said, “Under the constitution, and I am referencing sections 39, 40 and 41, we all have our fundamental rights to freely express ourselves, to freely assemble and to move freely in the country; and therefore, if a people have decided to exercise these rights, then it is unconstitutional and illegal for government institutions and law enforcement agencies to clamp down on them.
“The CDHR, which I lead, has made a clear statement that Omoyele Sowore should be released forthwith. The use of the revolution cannot be approximated to mean treason that they are alleging against him. President Buhari himself in 2015 came out with his party to say that the victory they recorded was a democratic revolution. In the days to come, the Nigerian government will hear from the civil society on what is going on in our country.”
On his part, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, said while he was not surprised that the police would clamp down on the protesters, because of the use of the word ‘revolution,’ the police should have exhibited decorum in their approach.
He said, “There should have been decorum by the police knowing that the protesters were not armed, even when they talked about revolution, they have not been caught with cache of arms and ammunition and except new information is provided, nobody has said that they were setting up a private army or that they were consulting with the enemies of the state from within or outside the country with a view to destabilising the government. So, what we expect is that nobody will be charged with treason or treasonable felony.”
Release political prisoners, PDP tells Buhari
But the Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to release all political prisoners in the country.
The PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, spoke in an interview with journalists in Yola according Channels Television 8pm news monitored by one of our correspondents.
He stated that it was undemocratic for Buhari’s administration to still keep political prisoners, adding that Buhari should allow democratic culture including freedom of expression by citizens to prevail.
Free Sowore to avoid unrest, Third Force tells Buhari
Also, presidential candidates and aspirants of some political parties that participated in the 2019 general elections and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council have called for the unconditional release of the Presidential candidate of African Action Congress, Sowore.
The candidates and aspirants under the aegis of ‘Third Force’ made this call via a statement signed by seven of them on Tuesday.
The statement, which circulated via electronic mail, said President Muhammadu Buhari should be reminded that the Nigerian constitution did not allow violation of human rights.
Those whose names were written in the release are Tope Fasua, 2019 presidential candidate, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party; Okey Samuel Mbonu, Labour Party; SKC Ogbonnia, All Progressives Congress presidential aspirant and Thomas-Wilson Ikubese of the Alliance for New Nigeria.
Others are Emmanuel Etim, Change Nigeria Party; Ayodele O. Favour, Young Progressives Party; and Clement Jimbo, Social Democratic Party.
Also, the leadership of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council has said Sowore’s arrest is capable of causing national unrest.
The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, stated this in a statement in Abakaliki on Tuesday.
The group noted that contrary to what the DSS had in mind by arresting the political activist, his continued detention was rather turning him into an international figure.
ADC, SDP carpet security operatives for attacking protesters
Meanwhile, the African Democratic Congress and the Social Democratic Party have berated security operatives for using force to disperse protesters.
In separate interviews with one of our correspondents in Abuja, the ADC National Publicity Secretary, Mrs Yemi Kolapo, and her SDP counterpart, Mr Alfa Mohammed, said it was wrong for the security operatives to have used brute force to disperse the protesters.
Kolapo said, “Dispersing protesters with gunshots was uncalled for. It is unacceptable. What this means is that, like the shabby handling of the killings associated with herdsmen, those in the position of authority do not care about the lives of people they are meant to protect.
“Why would you attack harmless citizens that way, not minding the number of casualties? What have they done? They were not violent, so why the violent response? It is sad that we have found ourselves in this situation akin to dictatorship, but what do you expect?”
APC govs condemn protesters, say call for revolution undemocratic
However, the All Progressives Congress state governors on Tuesday criticised the planners of Monday’s #RevolutionNow protests, saying that the action was condemnable.
They also described the protests as undemocratic, arguing that a revolution had no place in a country that had already embraced elections as the only lawful means of changing a government.
The position of the governors was conveyed by the Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, Mr Atiku Bagudu, during an interview with State House Correspondents in Abuja.
Bagudu, who is the Governor of Kebbi State, said the organisers, the “Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria,” should have waited for the next round of elections to test their popularity through the ballot box instead of calling for a revolution.
He claimed that the economy was performing well under Buhari.