The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), a national alliance of media and civil society organisations, today condemned the reckless display of brutality and lawlessness by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) who re-arrested human rights and pro-democracy activist, and founder of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore at the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, December 6, 2019, less than 24 hours after he was released from 124-day detention.
The Coalition called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take stern punitive action against the DSS agents involved in the attack on the court as well as the agency’s leadership in order to reassure Nigerians and the international community that they were not acting under his instructions and that his government does not condone their actions in desecrating the temple of justice, undermining the rule of law and their wanton disregard for the rights of citizens.
In a statement, the Coalition said failure by President Buhari and his Government to take immediate and decisive action in response to such apparent brigandage by a security agency, would remain a permanent blemish on the Administration’s human rights record and would ultimately result in the Government being ostracized by the international community while also undermining its legitimacy at home.
The Coalition described the action of the armed DSS operatives who invaded the courtroom where proceedings were going on in an effort to re-arrest Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, who has been charged with treasonable felony by the Federal Government, as the most frightening assault on the authority and independence of the Judiciary that Nigeria has ever witnessed.
Besides, it said, prior to the release of Sowore and Bakare on Thursday, December 5, 2019, the DSS had consistently undermined the authority of the courts by refusing to release the human rights activists for months despite several orders for their release on bail issued by different judges of the Federal High Court during the period, adding that this was an unacceptable violation of the principles of the rule of law in a constitutional democracy.
The coalition condemned the violent re-arrest of Sowore and Bakare in the court premises on Friday, December 6, 2019 as a gross desecration of the sanctity of the Judiciary and the judicial process as well as a crude attempt to circumvent the order of the court issued on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 for Sowore and Bakare to be released from custody by the DSS within 24 hours.
It stressed that the brazen acts of disrespect to the court and disobedience of its orders, should not go unpunished.
The Coalition called on the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to urgently take steps to launch investigations into the deplorable human rights situation in Nigeria as the country is facing a rapid descent into totalitarianism and tyranny.
It coalition said any delay by the international community in taking firm action to address the Nigerian situation could result in a violent conflict in Africa’s most populous nation, which would constitute a grave threat to international peace and security, particularly in the region.
COALITION FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS PROTECTION AND PRESS FREEDOM (CWPPF)
African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Civic Media Lab
Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
Daily Trust Newspaper
International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)
International Press Centre (IPC)
HEDA Resource Centre
Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ)
Paradigm Initiative (P.I)
Premium Times (PT)
Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)
Sahara Reporters (SR)
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)
Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ)