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.
Strike: OPS Warns FG, Labour Against Socio-Economic Disruption
The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) has called on the Federal Government and the organised labour to take all necessary steps to avert the disruption of socio-economic activities in the country.
This call was coming on the heels of the intended plans by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to embark on an indefinite strike, following a stalemate between the Federal Government and the organised labour on the removal of fuel subsidy and minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
The call was contained in a statement made available to newsmen by the Director General of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, yesterday.
According to him, the position of OPSN on the impending protest/strike by the labour unions is that of deep concern, if not anxiety.
OPSN is comprised of five business membership organisations (BMOs) namely, MAN; Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA); Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA); Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI).
Ajayi-Kadir stated: “OPSN is reiterating its call on the Federal Government and the labour unions to work sedulously to avert the looming disruption of socio-economic activities in the country.
“The economic indicators are not good and simply put, the economy cannot afford a nationwide strike at this time.
“We have keenly watched the back and forth consultations between the government on the one hand and NLC and TUC on the other. It is evident that the series of consultations have not yielded positive results and the latter has resolved, in one way or the other, to go ahead with the protest/strike.
“We are worried that adequate consideration is not given to the dire situation of the economy and the devastating/disruptive impact that a nationwide strike will have on the country at this time.
“The government and labour need to understand that our economy is being de-marketed and the livelihood of the average Nigerian is being diminished by these incessant bickering.
“While recognizing the right of the labour union to pursue the welfare of its members, we continue to implore the government to employ its best endeavours to re-engage the leadership of the unions and find an amicable ground to avert the imminent disruption in business activities that will attend the protest and nationwide strike.
“We opine that adequate consideration should be given to the grim state of the economy and the possible unintended consequences of social unrest that may result from the protests.
“Meanwhile, it is important to begin to have a conversation around how the labour unions and the government can resolve their issues without jeopardizing the livelihood of the average Nigerian and truncating our business projection and activities.
“There should be some innovation around how the conversation between the government and labour will not always end up in holding the economy hostage. The unintended consequence on the fortune of the average business and people of Nigeria is unwarranted and becoming too high.
“Government should demonstrate good faith in keeping to its promises during the negotiations with labour and abstain from making promises they cannot or do not intend to keep.
“On the other hand, labour should do a realistic assessment of its demands, within the context of prevailing economic realities and possibilities, while going the extra mile to indicate how its demands could be met.”
Probe Missing $15bn, N200bn Oil Revenues, SERAP Tells Tinubu
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu to set up a presidential panel of enquiry to promptly probe the grim allegations that over US$15 billion of oil revenues, and N200 billion budgeted to repair the refineries are missing and unaccounted for between 2020 and 2021, as documented by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
SERAP urged the President to “name and shame anyone suspected to be responsible for the missing and unaccounted for public funds and to ensure their effective prosecution as well as the full recovery of any proceeds of crime.”
SERAP also urged Tinubu “to fully implement all the recommendations by NEITI in its 2021 report, and to use any recovered proceeds of crime.”
In the letter dated 23 September 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said there was a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations, adding that taking these important measures would end the impunity of perpetrators.
SERAP said, “As President and Minister of Petroleum Resources, your office ought to be concerned about these damning revelations, by getting to the bottom of the allegations and ensuring that suspected perpetrators are promptly brought to justice, and any missing public funds fully recovered.”
The letter read in part: “Any failure to investigate these grave allegations, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and recover any missing public funds would have serious resource allocation and exacerbate the country’s debt burden.
“It would also create cynicism, suspicion, and eventually citizens’ distrust about the ability of your government to combat high-level official corruption, as well as deter foreign investment and limit growth and development.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The findings by NEITI suggest a grave violation of the public trust and the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], national anticorruption laws, and the country’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption.
“The allegations of corruption documented by NEITI undermine economic development of the country, trap the majority of Nigerians in poverty and deprive them of opportunities.
“Your government has a constitutional duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s wealth and resources.
“According to the 2021 report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), government agencies including the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NNPC) and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPDC) failed to remit $13.591 million and $8.251 billion to the public treasury.
“The NNPC and NPDC failed to remit over 70% of these public funds. NEITI wants both the NNPC and NPDC to be investigated, and for the missing public funds to be fully recovered.
“The report also shows that in 2021, the State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and its subsidiaries (the NNPC Group) reportedly spent US$6.931billion on behalf of the Federal Government but without appropriation by the National Assembly. The money may be missing.
“The NNPC also reportedly obtained a loan of $3 billion in 2012 purportedly to settle subsidy payments due to petroleum product marketers but there is no disclosure of the details of the loan, subsidy and the beneficiaries of the payments.
“The report also shows that N9.73 billion was paid to the NNPC as pipeline transportation revenue earned from Joint Venture operations but the money was neither remitted to the Federation nor properly accounted for. The NPDC in 2021 also failed to remit $7.61 million realized from the sale of crude oil.
“The report documents that about N200 billion was spent on refineries rehabilitation between 2020 and 2021 but “none of the refineries was operational in 2021 despite the spending.’ NEITI wants the spending to be investigated, as the money may be missing.
“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] imposes clear responsibility on your government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.
“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
“Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.
“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on your government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.
“The UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party obligate your government to effectively prevent and investigate the plundering of the country’s wealth and natural resources and hold public officials and non-state actors to account for any violations.
“Specifically, article 26 of the UN convention requires your government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption.
“Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.
“Nigeria is also a participating state of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which aims to foster greater governmental accountability for the use of natural resource wealth through the creation of a set of international norms on revenue transparency.
“EITI also aims to tackle corruption, poverty and conflict associated with natural resource wealth. Nigeria has the obligations to implement the EITI Standard, which sets out the transparency norms with which participating States including Nigeria must comply.
Global Index Ranks US Top Debtor At $20.27trn, Nigeria $27bn
The Global Index (TGI) has released its ranking of countries’ external debts categorised in trillions and billions of Dollars.
In the trillion Dollar category, according to the debt figures posted on its verified X handle @TheGlobal_Index on Saturday, the United States topped the chart of most indebted nations with $20.27trillion, followed by the UK, and France with $8.72trillion, and $6.35trillion, respectively.
In that same trillion category, China, Switzerland, and Singapore were the least with $2.02trillion, $2trillion, and $1.55trillion, respectively.
The ranking shows USA: $20.27trillion; UK: $8.72trillion; France: $6.35trillion; Germany: $5.67trillion; Netherlands: $4.34trillion; Luxembourg: $4.30trillion; Japan: $4.25trillion; and Australia: $3.15trillion.
Others in the trillion category include, Ireland: $3trillion; Italy: $2.5trillion; Spain: $2.33trillion; Canada: $2.12 trillion; China: $2.02trillion; Switzerland: $2trillion; and Singapore: $1.55trillion.
The Global Index also rated other countries in the billion Dollar category.
They include Brazil, Norway, and India ranking first, second, and third with $700billion; $651billion; and $555billion; respectively.
In the same billion Dollar category, Nigeria, Iran and North Korea were the least with $27billion; $8billion; and $5billion; respectively.
The full ranking shows Brazil: $700billion; Norway: $651billion;India: $555billion; Russia: $500billion; South Korea: $457billion; Mexico: $456billion; Turkey: $455billion; Portugal: $401billion; Indonesia: $400billion; Argentina: $280billion; UAE: $240billion; Saudi Arabia: $205billion; and South Africa: $180billion.
The rest are, Qatar: $170billion; Colombia: $135billion; Israel: $135billion; Ukraine: $120billion; Pakistan: $110billion; Vietnam: $100billion; Philippines: $82billion; Bangladesh: $50billion; Kenya: $30billion; Nigeria: $27billion; Iran: $8billion; and North Korea: $5billion.
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