CSOs condemn Sowore’s arrest by DSS over planned ‘Revolution Now’ rally


…Demand his immediate release

The Nigerian Civil Society Organizations (CSO) have condemned the arrest of Omoyele Sowore in the wee hours of Saturday, August 3, 2019 by the operatives of the Department of State Services as unjustifiable.

The group in a statement issued on Saturday by the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma and thirteen others said that Sowore had not committed any known offence except that he advocated for good governance.

It said,” The undersigned human rights and civil society organizations in Nigeria are deeply concerned about Nigeria’s steady drift to an authoritarian state under President Buhari. We are worried that with its persistent and increasingly intolerant posture and undemocratic actions, Buhari’s government turns Nigeria into an authoritarian state

“Buhari who came into office through democratic elections in 2015 had stated during campaigns that although he was once a military ruler, he had transformed to a democrat, described himself as ‘a converted democrat’ and promised to subject himself and his conduct in government, if elected, under democratic norms and practices.

“However, the style and approach of President Buhari’s government since 2015 and especially after his highly contested re-election in the 2019;  his government’s increasing intolerance for criticism and opposition; and his blatant disregard for the rule of law- all clearly paint a picture of a man still retaining his military mind-set and ruthless predilection.”

The group observed that his arrest, coming  just few hours after a rented crowd of pro-government protesters besieged the Abuja offices of the Amnesty International- for the second time under this government, in an attempt to intimidate the human rights advocacy organisation for its critical and factual reports exposing human rights atrocities and demanding accountability, was yet another indication that under President Muhammadu Buhari, democracy was in retreat in Nigeria and that the country was increasingly drifting towards full blown authoritarianism.

It added that under Buhari, human rights and basic freedoms had been recklessly and unabashedly curtailed on a scale only comparable to and reminiscent of the dark days of military dictatorship during which Buhari’s despicable role stands out.

It further submitted that under Buhari’s government, freedoms of assembly and expression had been brutally repressed and suppressed, only compounding the already precarious state of insecurity in Nigeria which had turned life in Nigeria ‘nasty, short and brutish’ adding that he blood of helpless and defenceless Nigerians was daily spilled by ruthless armed bandits and repressive state security agents, yet, the same government had proved woefully incompetent and incapable of providing leadership in the face of steadily degenerating state of security and dilapidated economy.

“The rights of Nigerians to peaceful protest are fundamental and guaranteed by the Constitution and other regional and international human rights legislation and treaties which Nigeria subscribes to.

“To protest is not a crime: In 2003, General Mohammadu Buhari led other ANPP party members in a protest rally over the rigged 2003 election. The police disrupted the rally. Buhari and ANPP challenged the disruption of the rally in court and the court declared the action of the police illegal and unconstitutional. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

“Again on November 20, 2014, General Buhari, as presidential candidate of APC, and his party men also staged a protest in Abuja against increasing insecurity and killings in the country under President Jonathan. Today, the situation is more tragic than it was when Buhari led that protest. Freedom of expression as ventilated through a peaceful protest is a constitutional right. We can’t continue to behave like we are in the Stone Age”, the group said.

While pointing out that President Buhari’s government had already done so much damage to the international image of Nigeria, it argued that the arrest of Sowore would do further damage to that battered image.

“It is a shame that the same government whose agents hire protesters to picket the offices of Amnesty international for being anti-government will unleash security agents against critics and genuine peaceful protesters. The rented protesters were at Amnesty International’s offices again today and would be going there for the next five days having been paid to occupy the office every day for seven days.

“We call for the immediate release of Sowore and an end to the repression of basic freedoms guaranteed Nigerians by the Constitution”, it concluded.

Photo: Omoyele Sowore.

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