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.
RSG Debunks Rumours That Late LG Chairman’s Body Has Been Exhumed
One Year Anniversary: Governor Wike Sues For Unity
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has called on Rivers people no matter their political affiliation to join hands with his administration to build a stable and vibrant economy.
In a state-wide broadcast to mark the first year of his second term in office today, Governor Wike noted that the state can overcome the present global economic situation if citizens come together in unity of thought and purpose.
“Yes, we can if we resolve to downplay our individual differences and work together for the common good of our heritage, our lovely State, our communities and our people. As a government, we welcome constructive criticisms devoid of politics and mischief, because they serve to make us better performers.
“This is a time for governance, not politics, and we welcome everyone on board to create an environment that promotes balanced economic growth, thriving private investments, boundless opportunity and a State we can truly call our pride and heritage.
“For us, nothing matters more than Rivers State, our people, our interests, our treasures, our enormous resources and assets, our accomplishments and our greatness,” he stated.
The Governor pointed out that within the last one year, his administration had embarked on urban renewal programme in the State capital and the construction of the multi-billion naira three flyover projects at Rebisi, Okoro-nu-Odo and Rumuogba.
He said that the dualization of Kira- Sapkenwa-Bori-Kono Road straddling three local government areas in Ogoni heartland has reached 92 percent completion.
The Oyibo(Mbano camp) road to Iriebe linking Oyigbo and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas had been completed while Alesa-Agbonchia-Oyigbo, Rumuakunde/Isiodu and the second phase of Isiokpo community Roads had also been completed.
Rumuji-Ibaa-Isiokpo, Omoku-Egbema, Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye, Ula Ehuda-Odioku-Anwunugboko-Ubeta-Ihuechi-Odiereke, Umueze-Umuogba-Umuokpurukpu-Umueke-Umunju-Umuelechi-Eberi, Eteo-Sime-Nonwa and Abonnema Ring Roads have reached various stages of completion.
In addition, the governor said, work has commenced on the expansion of the entire stretch of Ikwerre Road from Education Bus Stop to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
According to him, the long abandoned roads to the coastal communities of Opobo and Andoni in Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas has almost been delivered with appreciable work already done on the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road.
On healthcare delivery, the governor said the Mother and Child Hospital has been furnished, equipped and only undergoing necessary testing and preparations for commissioning.
The Braithwaite Memorial Hospital, he said, has been fully equipped and converted to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) leading to the accreditation of the programmes of that facility for the training of medical students by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
Governor Wike stated that the regional referral hospitals in Degema, Bori and Degema are presently being equipped while structural work is on-going on the ones located in Omoku and Etche.
The State Chief Executive pointed out that funds had been released for comprehensive upgrade of Enitonnia High School, Comprehensive Secondary School, Borikiri, Obama High School, Degema, Community Secondary School, Tombia, Community Secondary School, Omuanwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area and Kalabari National College, Buguma.
Others include, Community Secondary School, Kugbo in Abua/Odual Local Government, Community Secondary School, Obeakpu in Oyigbo Local Government and Community Secondary School, Eteo in Eleme Local Government Area.
On Real Madrid Academy, Governor Wike announced that the construction of students’ hostels is progressing and that the school would soon open for simultaneous football and related training programmes.
He said in line with the promise to refocus on agricultural development, the Datco Cassava Processing Plant with a guaranteed off-market opportunities for 3000 local cassava farmers would soon be completed to stimulate cassava revolution in the state.
The governor regretted that despite the advisories and regulations on social distancing and compulsory wearing of face masks, most residents are flouting the directives to the collective peril of all.
“These are all irresponsible and risky behaviour in the face of the invisible and ravaging pandemic and the enormous threat it poses to public health and the safety of human lives.
“We shall bring the full weight of the law to bear on every recalcitrant person, business or institution, irrespective of status who decides to treat the existing orders and regulations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our State with contempt.
“Government may be forced to reinstate lockdown if members of the public continue to flout and disregard the established regulations on social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks,” he said.
Governor Wike however, commiserated with the families of those that lost their loved ones to the pandemic and prayed for the peaceful repose of their innocent souls.
He said that while we pray for the quick success, for the global search, for vaccines, the responsibility still rests on everyone to strictly comply with the established mitigating measures.
A Statewide Broadcast By His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, POS, To Mark The First Year Of His Second Term In Office …My Dear Good People of Rivers State
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