Professor Wole Soyinka has said that with the new move of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on Omoyele Sowore, “Further checks have however confirmed that this government has indeed attained an unprecedented level of paranoia.”
Soyinka, reacting to the 7-count charge slammed against Sowore, who has been in detention following a court pronouncement, said the the new was “utterly depressing.”
The Nobel laureate winner added that on hearing the news, “I can testify that the immediate reaction around me was to dismiss this as yet another grotesque product of Fake News, of which Nigerians have become the greatest practitioners. I confess that I also joined in this school of thought – at the start.”
Soyinka said in a statement titled BACK TO THE TREASONABLY FELONIOUS FORMULA: This is utterly depressing news. So, the Sowore affair has moved beyond harassment and taken on a sinister direction.
Outside the country where I happened to be engaged at the moment, I can testify that the immediate reaction around me was to dismiss this as yet another grotesque product of Fake News, of which Nigerians have become the greatest practitioners. I confess that I also joined in this school of thought at the start.
Further checks have however confirmed that this government has indeed attained an unprecedented level of paranoia. I do not believe that the Justice department itself believes in these improbable charges, as formally publicised.
So, once again, we inscribe in our annals another season of treasonable felony, History still guards some lessons we have yet to digest, much less from which to learn. Welcome to the Club, Mr Omoyele Sowore.
Meanwhile, as yesterday marked day 45 that the convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, has been in the Department of State Service (DSS) detention, Lagos State chapter of the Africa Action Congress (AAC) Legal Team, asked the Federal Government for his immediate release.
Reacting to the freshly 7-count charge suit on the Sahara Reporters’ publisher by the Federal Government, the league of lawyers said that, “We are not aware that Sowore was remanded to prison by any court order on 20th September, 2019.”
The AAC affirmed that “in the events preceding the charge, we have unequivocally maintained that unless a definite charge is brought against him, his continuous detention cannot be justified under the Nigerian Constitution.”
The full statement made available to newsmen, and signed by the Head of the AAC Legal Team, Tope Akinyode, titled, “Upon Completion Of 45 Days, Sowore Must Be Immediately Released From DSS Detention Today Without Any Further Ado”, reads: “Our attention has been drawn to the 7-count-charge of treasonable felony, among others, which the DSS preferred against Omoyele Sowore on 20th September, 2019.
“In the events preceding the charge, we have unequivocally maintained that unless a definite charge is brought against Omoyele Sowore, his continuous detention cannot be justified under the Nigerian Constitution.
“This is because the ex parte order upon which the DSS is granted permission to withhold Sowore for 45 days negates the fundamental principle of fair hearing and the ex parte order has since been challenged before the court.
“However, in the prevailing circumstances, need has arisen for the DSS to let go of Sowore before today runs to an end. We are not aware that Sowore was remanded to prison by any court order on 20th September, 2019.
“In criminal matters, pending when bail application is made on behalf of a Defendant, he may be temporarily remanded by court. The Defendant (Sowore) was not remanded by court order yesterday.
“However, the 45-day court order upon which the DSS has continuously held on to him Sowore expires today, 21st September, 2019. Based on the foregoing, we hereby call on the DSS to release Omoyele Sowore from their facilities with immediate effect.
“We submit that the DSS lacks the judicial, statutory or constitutional jurisdiction to further withhold Sowore any moment from today and it would amount to a rape on the Nigerian Constitution if the DSS refuses to release Sowore today.”
Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN, urging him to use his position “to without delay enter a nolle prosequi and discontinue the prosecution of the Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ protest and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, also known as mandate for apparently politically motivated charges of treason, fraud and ‘insulting President Muhammadu Buhari’.”
SERAP said: “We urge you to use your role as a trustee of the public interest under Section 174 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) to end several of similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.”
In the letter dated 21 September, 2019 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group said: “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice systems, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom. These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As guardian of the public interest, you have a role to end this travesty now, and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.”
SERAP also said: “These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicization of judiciary. This will be bad for everyone—ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”
The letter read in part: “While the Nigerian government has the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law. Exercising your constitutional independence and discretion to withdraw these kinds of charges would meet the text of reasonableness, demands of justice, and as noted, serve the public interest.
“Laws against terrorism and money laundering should be properly used, and not to undermine critical voices, activists, and the media. Invoking the charges of treasonable felony to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression would minimise the seriousness with which our laws traditionally treat such offences, and undermine the essence of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.
“If not urgently addressed, the misuse of the criminal justice system and politicization of Nigeria’s judiciary would jeopardise the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and lower the public estimation of the ability of our justice system to serve as the last hope of justice for desperate victims. Unless these bogus charges are immediately withdrawn, there is a danger that the public interest represented by the courts and that represented by your role, might part company.
“Attacks on journalism are fundamentally at odds with protection of freedom of expression and access to information, which in turn is key to promoting transparency and accountability, and the achievement of the government’s anti-corruption agenda.
“Withdrawing this case would send a strong message to many state governors that your office will not accept their persistent abuse of the criminal justice systems to jail journalists, bloggers and activists, just as it is, for example, the case in Cross River State, where journalists, Agba Jalingo and Ekanem Ekpo have been charged with treason and now being detained for 90 days simply for reporting about an alleged diversion of N500million by the Cross River Governor, Prof Ben Ayade.
“As Nigeria’s chief law officer, it is vital to our democracy, judicial independence and rule of law for you to stop the Federal Government and state governors from misrepresenting the country’s constitutional jurisprudence and international obligations in the matters of freedom of expression and media freedom.
“SERAP notes that, last Friday, the Federal Government filed a seven-count charge of cybercrimes of insulting Mr Buhari, money laundering and treasonable felony against Sowore and Bakare. The charges followed their detention by security operatives on 2nd August, 2019. Order was his detention was not made until the 8th of August.
“SERAP also notes that at a forum we organized in June, 2019 to discuss the legality of the Cybercrimes Act, your representative and the Head of Cybercrimes Prosecution Unit in the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Terlumun George Tyendezwa said the Justice Ministry was committed to pursuing the amendment of the Act, to remove its repressive provisions like insulting public officials, which is now being used in this case, and frequently to undermine freedom of expression, media freedom and provide special protection for public figures including president and state governors.
“Nigerian Constitution and international human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party protect even shocking and offensive speech.
“Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee everyone’s right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and through any media, including in the form of art.
“The Human Rights Committee in fact underlines in General Comment 34 that laws should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person and that the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high in cases involving public or political figures. Thus, the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to these figures is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties.
“These restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom cannot meet the basic tests of legality, reasonableness and proportionality. It is normal for expression to provoke controversy, reaction and discourse, even anger but not punishment, fear and silence.
“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to withdraw the charges against Sowore and Bakare, and several other similar charges instigated or brought by state governors across the county. We would be happy to provide further information or to discuss any of these issues in more detail with you”, SERAP added.
Wike Recommits To Harmonious Host Communities, IOCs’ Ties
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has reemphasised that the state governments’ aim as mediator in conflicts affecting oil companies and host communities was to ensure peaceful working relations that propel community development.
Wike said that most community-based crisis organisations experience could be averted, if they involved the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Community Affairs in dealings with host communities as well as abide by the GMoUs in the cause of carrying out their commercial activities.
The governor stated this in Port Harcourt during a peace meeting between Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Company, operators of OML 54 and its host communities, Ogbehe, Obumeze and Ugbokor in Ahoada East Local Government Area and Otari Community in Abua/Odual Local Government Area.
According to the governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, corporations which are able to abide by signed GMoUs stand to experience less friction as most host communities want a fair share of their social responsibility.
“We don’t like when host communities are distressed neither do we like operating companies disturbed,” he said.
He further advised companies to desist from using force because community misunderstanding cannot be handled with harassment.
The closed-door meeting was attended by Niger Delta Petroleum Resources (NDPR) representatives led by the Manager, HSC, Tom-George Walter, House of Assembly member representing Abua/Odual, chiefs, youths and opinion leaders of both communities and the permanent secretaries of Ministry of Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Special Service Bureau, Office of the Secretary to the State Government.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government is also mediating on the face-off between Prime Exploration and Production Ltd and Asarama community in Andoni LGA.
I’m Gov Because God Dislodged Forces Of Darkness On March 9 -Wike
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that he remains Rivers State governor because of the intervention of God who dislodged forces of darkness who were primed to rob the Rivers mandate on March 9, 2019.
Speaking during the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Holy Ghost Rally at the Adokiye Amiesimaka, yesterday, Wike described himself as a living testimony of God’s blessing.
He said: “Nigerians are aware of what happened on March 9, 2019. If anyone says he does not believe in God, that event of March 9 should make you believe God.
“But for God, the enemies would have taken over the state. I thank the church for standing firm. They prayed for God’s will to be done and God’s will was done. But for your prayers, I won’t be here as Rivers State governor.”
Wike said the criticisms on his declaration of Rivers State as a Christian State cannot stop him from affirming the reality.
The governor said: “Anytime I have the opportunity, I repeat the declaration with authority and I owe nobody an apology. I am standing on solid Authority. Rivers State is a Christian State.”
He commended the Redeemed Christian Church of God for their sanitation programme, tagged ‘Pick A Thrash’.
“If we have all churches embark on sanitation, our state will be cleaner. We will support this programme financially and we shall donate three vehicles to the church for the programme”, he said.
Wike said that God has used the General Overseer of RCCG to bless Rivers State, adding that the Annual Holy Ghost Rally has been a blessing to the state.
In his remarks, the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God ( RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye said everyone needs help, and noted that the best source to get help was from God.
Adeboye said: “No matter how influential and powerful, everyone needs help. Everyone needs help and the best help you can get is from the Almighty God.”
He said that divine help was always on time and manifests at the time it was needed.
Adeboye prayed for Wike, Rivers State and her people.
Also speaking, the Pastor in charge of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Belemina Obunge announced that the second phase of the church’s Environmental Sanitation Programme has commenced.
Obunge expressed gratitude to Wike and the Government of Rivers State for the support over the years.
Young musician, Master Nengi Jaja and the RCCG Region 5 Choir ministered in songs at the Holy Ghost Rally.
Over 40,000 Christian faithful thronged the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium for the RCCG Holy Ghost Rally, which had the theme: “Divine Help”.
Bayelsa, Kogi Guber Polls Hold, ‘Morrow, Says INEC …Gets Court Order On Exclusion Of Running Mate …Snatch Ballot Boxes, Lose Your Life, Police Warn …Court Decides Bello’s Fate, Today
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reacted to a Federal High Court ruling which invalidated the candidacy of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, insisting that despite the court verdict, the poll would go on as scheduled, tomorrow.
It would be recalled that the High Court in Yenegoa, had yesterday, declared that the APC does not have a governorship candidate in the election taking place on Saturday.
The court presided over by Justice Jane Inyang ruled that the governorship primary conducted by the APC in the oil-rich state was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and, therefore, the party has no candidate.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday had also disqualified Mr Lyon’s running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, from participating in the forthcoming election on the grounds that he provided conflicting information on the documents he presented to INEC.
In its reaction, INEC said the election will go on despite the disqualification of the APC candidate.
“The court did not say INEC should stop the election”, said Sarian Dangosu, INEC Publicity Secretary in Bayelsa.
“The court only said those who do not have candidates will be disallowed therefore, the other 43 candidates will go to the polls,” she noted.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says no voter will be allowed to vote without voter card recognised by the Smart Card Reader in the November 16 elections in Bayelsa and Kogi.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. James Apam, said this on the sideline of a one-day Training on Election Duties, organised by Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) for its staff at Kogi Sector Command Headquarters in Lokoja.
Speaking on behalf of Apam, a staff officer of the commission, Mr Olugbenga Ajayi, warned that no person would be allowed to vote without being accredited using the card reader.
“We keep learning everyday; and we want to obey what we have said as electoral umpire; if card reader cannot identify you, you cannot vote.
“It is either card reader or no voting in Kogi and Bayelsa elections; anything apart from the use of card reader for accreditation and voting will be disqualified.
“No manual accreditation would be allowed; it is either card reader or no voting,” he reiterated.
He enjoined all the personnel participating in the elections to conduct themselves very well and not to compromise but respect their dignity and protect the sanctity of the elections.
He further urged other security personnel to adequately secure electoral staff and election materials, saying all eyes are on Kogi and Bayelsa elections.
He also called for timely arrival of security personnel at INEC Local Government Secretariat, who would be escorting their staff and election materials to INEC Registration Area Centre (RAC) for timely dispatched.
“We urged the security personnel to live by the oath they swore to and not chasing after politicians for money,” he said.
Saturday poll in Bayelsa was expected to be a straight race between candidates of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but for the controversy trailing Lyon’s emergence.
Lyon, a relatively unknown aspirant then, defeated five other aspirants in the APC governorship primary in September, including a former minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Heineken Lokpobiri, who was seen by many as a front-runner in the race.
Lokpobiri scored 571 votes, the second-lowest in the primary, while Lyon, who had the backing of the Minister of State for Petroleum and former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, had 42,138 votes.
Many party chieftains said the primaries left much to be desired, accusing the party National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, of conducting another undemocratic election.
A party chieftain and former senator from Bayelsa, Felix Oboro, said that Lokpobiri would have made a better governorship candidate for the APC.
He said Lyon has an obscure background, and nobody knows anything about him.
After the primaries, Lokpobiri approached the court, asking it to declare him, and not Lyon, the authentic candidate of the APC.
If yesterday’s ruling stands, the ruling APC would suffer yet another defeat caused by internal wrangling within the party hierarchy.
It was the same internal party crisis that caused APC loses in states such as Zamfara and with Rivers.
In Rivers, the party’s candidates were disqualified before the general elections and thus could not take part while in Zamfara, the candidates who had earlier been declared winners were disqualified by the Supreme Court and opposition candidates then declared winners.
Like Bayelsa, in both Rivers and Zamfara, the cases were taken to court by aggrieved APC members.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Operation, AbdulMajeed Ali, has warned those planning to snatch ballot boxes during Saturday’s elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states to have a rethink as the police will not condone such behaviour.
“Anyone caught will not be spared and will not live to do that ever again,” Ali said.
Addressing a press conference, yesterday ahead of Saturday’s elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, Ali, who is overseeing the Kogi elections said that the Inspector General had deployed enough personnel to adequately police the state and deal with any eventuality during the election.
“We have enough personnel and capacity to deal with anyone that tried to foment trouble on Saturday. Just watch, if anyone tries to snatch ballot box on Saturday, he will pay dearly for it.
“We are determined to provide the enabling environment for a peaceful election. We are tired of being held to ransom by Kogi and Bayelsa states every election period, we will put a stop to that this time around.”
He said that the force had undertaken a security threat assessment in both Kogi and Bayelsa states and have identified possible risks, geo-located trouble spots, and classified individuals and groups that could constitute security challenges to the process.
Ali added, “The outcome of this intelligence-driven initiative guided our election deployment plans and informed our post-election security projections.”
The DIG said that the police are determined to create an environment that is secure and peaceful enough to give confidence to the political actors to undertake their campaigns and other political activities and for the citizens to freely exercise their electoral franchise.
But barely 48 hours to the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the police said it had identified possible risks that could constitute a threat to the smooth conduct of the elections.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations, Abdulmajid Ali, made this known to newsmen in Lokoja, yesterday.
He said that individuals and groups that could pose security challenges to the election had been identified, classified and placed under surveillance.
Ali said that a security threat assessment carried out in the states made it possible for the police to discover all these.
According to him, the outcome of the intelligence-driven assessment was also used as a guide in the deployment of personnel and logistics for the elections.
Ali said that the objective was to create a secure and peaceful environment to give citizens the confidence to freely exercise their franchise.
He explained that adequate security had been put in place for all INEC personnel, ad-hoc staff, agents, domestic and international observers during the entire period.
“We have also emplaced adequate security for both sensitive and non-sensitive election materials, both at the voting centres, while on transit and at the various collation points.
He said that 66,241 policemen would be deployed for election security operations in both Kogi and Bayelsa states on November 16.
Out of this, he said 35,200 personnel will be deployed to Kogi State while 31,041 will be deployed to Bayelsa State.
He said that they would be complemented by deployment of Police Mobile Force, Special Protection Unit and Counter-terrorism Unit and other security outfits.
In addition, Ali said that the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had ordered the posting of Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIGs), AIGs, CPs, DCPs and ACPs to all senatorial districts and local government areas within the two states.
He made it clear that the heavy deployment of policemen for the election was not to intimidate voters but to make the elections a success.
According to him, personnel deployed on the election security operations have been charged to be civil, fair and professional and be the rule of law-guided in the discharge of their duties.
“In so doing, however, they have been additionally instructed to be firm and decisive,’’ he said.
Ali said that all entry and exit points into Kogi and Bayelsa states from contiguous states shall be closed as from 12 a.m. of November15 to 4 p.m. of November16.
“There shall also be restriction of movements within the two states as from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. of November16, with the exemption of those on election duties and essential services,’’ he said.
Ali said that the Inspector-General of Police had directed that with effect from Friday, November 15, all security aides attached to political office holders be withdrawn until the conclusion of the elections.
He gave an assurance that the police and other security agencies were fully ready to support INEC in delivering successful elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
He said that the country has had enough of electoral violence, warning those planning to foment trouble on Election Day to have a change of mind.
“In securing the law-abiding citizens during the elections, we shall not hesitate to deploy our potent assets to deal firmly and decisively with electoral deviants,’’ he warned.
DIG Ali gave out telephone lines that can be useful.
He said, “For any complaints, members of the public are urged to reach the Kogi State’s Joint Operation Room on 08066002020, 08065948693 and 08151532944; and Bayelsa State’s Joint Operation Room on 07034578208 and 09055555803.”
Similarly, a suit challenging whether the Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello, is fit to contest for the November 16 governorship election in the state will today, come up at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The originating summon, which is instituted by Natasha Akpoti, the Social Democratic Party (SDP)’s governorship candidate in the forthcoming poll, will be mentioned at Court 5 before Justice Inyang Ekwo.
While SDP candidate is the plaintiff, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
The suit, dated October 10 and marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1221/2019, filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on Akpoti’s behalf, sought the court’s determination on the eligibility of Governor Bello in the Saturday election, having allegedly involved in double registration as a voter.
Akpoti said “that by his wilful act of making double registration as a voter, Yahaya Bello, candidate of the 1st defendant is not a fit and proper person to be allowed by the 2nd defendant to vote or be voted for in the forthcoming Kogi State governorship election, having committed act of electoral fraud.
“That Mr Yahaya Bella, the candidate of the 1st Defendant was initially registered as a voter sometime in 2011 in Abuja, by the 2nd defendant.
“That Bello, the candidate of the 1st defendant again fraudulently procured from the 2nd defendant. A second registration as a voter on 23rd May, 2017, at Government House, Lokoja, while his 2011 first registration as a voter in Abuja was still live, extant and subsisting.
“That the said Yahaya Bello, the candidate of the 1st defendant carried out the double registration with the 2nd defendant so as to scuttle due electoral process.
“That such a person is not a fit and proper person to vote for in any election, let alone for the high office of the governor of a state.”
Justice Ekwo had, last Tuesday, delivered judgment, disqualifying the APC Deputy Governorship Candidate in Bayelsa, Sen. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, over false information given in his CF0001 Form submitted to INEC for the Saturday’s poll.
In his message, President Muhammadu Buhari called for fairness and transparency ahead of Saturday’s governorship polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states, according to a State House statement.
In Kogi, a repeat election will also be held in Kogi-West senatorial district.
“On Saturday, November 16, voters in two states, Bayelsa and Kogi, will be left alone to decide who takes charge of the administration of their important states for the next four years.
“Since the ban on campaigns was lifted a few weeks ago, their citizens have been called to attend political rallies of various hues and were bombarded with advertising on billboards, radio and TV; texts, tweets, WhatsApp and Facebook posts in campaigns that sadly, have so far recorded not a few uninspiring incidents of violence and of intemperate use of language.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has made a strong demand for exemplary conduct of non-partisanship on the part of election and law enforcement officials in the two states. All must carry out their functions with fairness and transparency; without let or hindrance and without fear or favour”, the statement signed by presidential media aide, Mr Garba Shehu, said.
It quoted Buhari as saying, “I call on voters in Bayelsa and Kogi states to exercise their franchise in a peaceful and orderly manner and in line with the law in all situations. Law enforcement officials must ensure that citizens are allowed to vote without harassment and intimidation and any attempt to steal or hijack ballots must be stopped using all legal means.
“In all democratic elections, there are bound to be winners and losers and the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi will not be different. All candidates should be ready to accept the outcomes and wherever they are dissatisfied, they should follow the due process of the law in seeking redress. There must not be a resort to self-help.”
He acknowledged that the polls would be “suspenseful”, but wished the participants well.
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