■ Nigerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Omoyele Sowore & other activists reportedly arrested and tortured during a peaceful protest last night in Abuja.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given the Nigerian government 48 hours to release the convener of #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore and others, or it would take legal actions against it.
SERAP made the threat via its verified Twitter account on Friday.
The tweet says, “Nigerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Omoyele Sowore & other activists reportedly arrested and tortured during a peaceful protest last night in Abuja.”
It will be recalled that Sowore was arrested on August 3, 2019, in Lagos by the Department of State Services, Nigeria’s domestic intelligence agency with a history of repression.
He was moved to the agency’s headquarters in Abuja where he was illegally detained for 144 days despite different court orders for his release.
The DSS accused Sowore of baseless crimes like money laundering. The security agency claimed he was plotting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari even though it failed to produce evidence to substantiate its claim.
He was subsequently arraigned for treason but had pleaded not guilty. The activist cum journalist was granted bail in November 2020, but part of the conditions restricts him to Abuja.
Nigerians on social media have called for his release with hashtag #Freesowore as his whereabouts remain unknown. The police have yet to issue any statement on his arrest. (SaharaReporters)
Davidson Iriekpen, Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos, Chuks Okocha and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The federal government came under more attacks yesterday over the arrest of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, as Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, described the detention of the activist-turned politician as reminiscent of the oppressive regime of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), also lampooned the government and faulted the argument of security agencies that the call for revolution by Sowore amounted to treason.
Abacha came to power in November 1993 in the wake of the agitation for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election results after sacking the Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.
He unleashed brutality against the people, arresting and killing protesters and opponents of his regime. Some of the critics of his dictatorship, including former Head of State then, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo; former Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, Maj.-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, human rights activists, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, among others, were roped in in contrived coup plot and sentenced to various jail terms.
Soyinka, in a statement yesterday, said Sowore did nothing to suggest he was “urging the public to engage in a forcible overthrow of government” as explained by the police.
Sowore is the convener of ‘#RevolutionNow’ protests, which has been scheduled to hold nationwide today.
He was, however, arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) at his Lagos residence in the early hours of Saturday.
The Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, also tagged the planned protests an act of treason and terrorism, whose sole aim is to “force a regime change in the country.”
However, the DSS, which confirmed Sowore’s arrest yesterday, defended its action, saying the activist was taken into custody for calling for a revolution in Nigeria.
On his part, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, yesterday warned that the state government would not tolerate any protest just as he ordered security agents to arrest anyone found taking part in today’s planned protest.
But Soyinka deplored the arrest, describing it as a “travesty” and violation of the fundamental rights of citizens to congregate and make public their concerns.
According to him, protests are democratic ways of drawing government’s attention to ills and mobilising the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition.
He said the arrest, incarceration and threats to civilians involved in such cause were “ultimately counter-productive.”
“Beyond the word ‘revolution, another much mis-used and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government.
“I, therefore, find the reasons given by the Inspector-General, for the arrest and detention of this young ex-presidential candidate totally contrived and untenable, unsupported by any shred of evidence.
“This is all so sadly déjà vu. How often must we go through this wearisome cycle? We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin’s Mayflower School, Ikenne.
“The same pattern Pavlovian conduct manifested itself under yet another supposed democratic ruler who personally declared that the gathering of civilians to deliberate on, and propose a constitution for the nation was ‘high treason’. And yet again, even a faceless cabal under yet another civilian regime refused to be left out of the insensate play of power.
“Freedom is not so glibly qualified. It cannot be doled out like slops of charity from soup kitchens. “Let the police stick to their task of protecting and managing protests, not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on bogey words like – revolution!,” the laureate said.
Soyinka urged the Inspector General to wade through the daily journals of the past few weeks and months, read and digest the calls by numerous sectors of society – across professions and national groupings – for demonstrations against the parlous conditions of society, all identifying ills to which attention must be drawn, and urgently, through mass action.
According to him, demonstrations and processions are time honoured, democratic ways of drawing not only the attention of government to ills, but of mobilising the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition, and thereby exhorting civil society also to devise means of ameliorating their condition through their own efforts.
“Religious bodies have urged such remedies, so have civic associations. The ready recourse to arrests, incarceration and threats to civilians are ultimately counter-productive. They alienate the citizens, erode their confidence in governance responsiveness, and thereby advance the very extremist nightmare that security agencies believe they are acting to thwart.
“If we cannot learn from the histories and experiences of other societies, let us at least learn from ours. Freedom is not so glibly qualified. It cannot be doled out like slops of charity from soup kitchens. Let the police stick to their task of protecting and managing protests, not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on bogey words like – revolution,” he added.
However, the presidency described Soyinka’s statement as an unpardonable blackmail that would not deter the police and law enforcement agents from doing their work.
Reacting to the criticism of Soyinka, following THISDAY inquiry, a presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, said renowned critics like Soyinka who often accuse the police of dereliction of duty when there is a breach of law and order are also the ones castigating law enforcement agents in their current moves to protect the law.
He described the accusation that the president is autocratic as an unpardonable blackmail, saying that Nigerians can only call for a change of government in accordance with constitutional stipulations.
According to him, calls for violent change of a democratically elected government is unacceptable in a setting where the guidelines for change of government have clearly been spelt out in the constitution.
He said: “You mentioned the name of Professor Wole Soyinka. Some of these critics of government are people whom we have great respect and admiration for. When things are going wrongly with law and order in the country, they say the police are not doing their work. They raise their voices, asking that “the culprits to be booked and expeditiously punished in the most severe manner.
“The police under a new leadership is now rising to the occasion, saying ‘we cannot take any more atrocities against the law in our country and they are saying don’t do anything. They are calling out President Buhari and comparing him to autocratic leaders.’ This is an unpardonable blackmail that cannot stop the police and other law enforcement agencies from doing their work.
“A Nigerian is by right empowered to call for a change of government using constitutional means; to protest peacefully against government policies and decisions. But to call for the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government and president and worse – were those calling for it to attempt to do so – is not acceptable under any law in Nigeria. Violence will never be accepted again as a way to change governments in this country. Those days are gone.
“Nigeria has a well-crafted constitution and elaborate laws governing elections that guide an orderly succession in government. We have a judicial system that actively serves as a watchdog of the people’s rights.
“Yet, we are daily witnesses to obscene display of delight in the killing of our soldiers and policemen, an open contempt for the country’s laws and its people, accompanied by loud cheers from the so-called New Media. Is this the way to grow a country?”
Protests Not Treasonable Offence, Says Falana
In his reaction, Falana, in a statement yesterday, said protest marches in Nigeria were not treasonable offences.
According to him, the police have capitalised on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protests.
He said: “No doubt, the Nigeria Police Force has capitalised on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protests. If revolution has become a criminal offence in Nigeria, why were the leaders of the APC not charged for claiming to have carried out Nigeria’s democratic revolution, which terminated the 16-year rule of the PDP in 2015?
“Why was Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) not threatened with treason when he asked Nigerians to rise up for revolution via the 2019 general election?
“Did all Nigerian senators led by APC members not commit treason or terrorism when they spent one-and-a-half hours on May 14, 2019 to debate Senator Chukwuka Utazi’s timely motion on “Bridging the gap between the haves and have-not to nip in the bud the seeds of a looming violent revolution?”
Falana also criticised the Buhari administration for clamping down on individuals perceived as its critics.
“It is worrisome that the Buhari administration has decided to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations that are critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation,” he added.
DSS: Sowore in Custody for Calling for Revolution
Amid the criticisms, the DSS yesterday defended its arrest of Sowore, saying he was taken into custody because he called for a revolution in Nigeria
“I want to start by saying; the Department of State Services is a responsible security and intelligence agency operating in Nigeria. And operating also in a democracy and it adheres strictly to the fundamental principles and tenets of democracy. The DSS as we are all aware is charged primarily with the detection and prevention of crimes and threats against the internal security of Nigeria and fundamentally more importantly, the service is also charged with the responsibility of managing, containing, curtailing, eliminating threats against the national security of Nigeria. These threats include: threats of sabotage, threats of subversion, threats of terrorism and of course, threats of espionage and all others, including ethnic agitations, economic sabotage and all of that,” DSS spokesperson, Mr. Peter Afunanya, said.
According to him, Nigeria is not a banana republic and anyone calling for revolution is only inciting others join in insurrection, insurgency and to forcibly take over the government.
But Afunanya was unable to say whether or not the DSS has any credible intelligence that confirmed Sowore has the capacity to execute a takeover of government.
He, however, said the DSS was “aware” that Sowore had been in touch with foreign actors to destabilise Nigeria.
The DSS declined to say where Sowore was being kept and when he would be arraigned in court.
Wike Orders Arrest of Protesters
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has warned that the state will not tolerate any protest as fear rose yesterday over the planned #RevolutionNow, billed to begin today, and ordered security agents to arrest anyone found participating in the protest.
Wike said Rivers State was not part of the protest and whatever illegal agenda it sought to pursue.
“Rivers State does not subscribe to what the #RevolutionNow protest represents and Rivers State is not part of the protest,” he added.
He directed security agencies to arrest anybody involved in the #RevolutionNow protest and also take all necessary steps to prosecute such persons.
Police Ready for Protest as IG Puts CPs on the Alert
Also yesterday, the Police High Command said it was prepared for any eventuality that would arise from today’s planned revolution march.
As part of its preparations to handle the situation, the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, has ordered Commissioners of Police in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to maintain law and order in their areas of responsibility.
Force Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mr. Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said the police nationwide were on red alert.
“Commissioners of Police nationwide are under strict and specific instruction to ensure the maintenance of law and order within their areas of responsibility,” he told THISDAY in a telephone interview.
Also, the FCT Police Commissioner, Bala Ciroma, said the command had put adequate measures in place to contain any breakdown of law and order.
“We have adequate security arrangement in place. Everybody should go about his lawful, normal businesses,” he said.
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The Police on Wednesday arraigned Iliyasu Lawal, 28, Nura Iliyasu, 29, and Idris Suleiman 28, in a Wuse Zone 2 Magistrates’ Court FCT for allegedly trespassing the premises of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the trio, who are residents of Kaduna State, were accused of attempts to commit suicide inside the presidential villa.
Mr Augustine Urom, the Prosecuting Counsel, had averred that Lawal, on September 12 allegedly climbed a telecommunication mast within the presidential villa to commit suicide while the others watched.
Urom further told the court that the Department of State Service had transferred the defendants to the FCT Police Command on September 18.
He further averred that the defendants allegedly invaded the Aso Rock Villa with various protestation placards capable of making the public to revolt against the Federal Government.
Urom said the First Information Report had alleged that the display of the defendants was capable of igniting an uprising against constituted authority.
The prosecutor claimed the offences contravened Sections 79, 348, 114, 113 and 231 of the Penal Code.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the five counts of joint act, criminal trespass, inciting disturbance, disturbance of public peace and attempt to commit suicide levelled against them.
Mr Uche Uwazuruonye, Counsel to Lawal and Suleiman thereafter filed an oral application seeking the court to admit his clients to bail.
Uwazuruonye, said the alleged offences were bailable, adding that his clients would always be available to stand justice.
“I assure the court that the defendants would not jump bail if admitted,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Dim Udebuani, Counsel to the second defendant, Iliyasu prayed the court to also grant his client bail, saying this will provide for him required right atmosphere to prepare his defence.
The Magistrate, Mr Muhammad Abdulmumini went ahead to admit the three defendants to bail in the sum of N250, 000 and a surety respectively.
Abdulmumini said the sureties must be from a Grade Level Seven Officer and above in the Federal Civil Service within the jurisdiction of the court.
The Magistrate adjourned the case until October 16 for hearing.
Members of the Belgian Nationalist Student Association have organized a rally in Ghent against what they call the genocide of white farmers in South Africa. Over the past few years, there’s been an increase in murders and attacks on farmers, although neither the authorities nor mainstream media have viewed these attacks as being racially-motivated.
The march was attended by South African students and politicians, who arrived in Belgium to share the problems of their community with Belgians – citizens of the country, which many members of the South African Boer minority consider the land of their forefathers. Sputnik sat down with Pieter Groenewald – the leader of South Africa’s conservative Freedom Front Plus to talk about these issues.
Sputnik: As a representative of the Boer minority in South Africa, do you feel support from Belgians?
Pieter Groenewald: The people in South Africa, they feel in a certain sense that they sometimes stand alone. And events like this – especially when it comes to farm murders, is really big moral support for the people of South Africa, specifically for the farmers, who know that there are other people, specifically in Belgium, that also support them in trying to get the government to realize that farm murders in South Africa, and the brutality is totally unacceptable – not only in South Africa, but also all over the world, and specifically in Belgium.
Sputnik: Is there any reaction to farm murders from the government and mass media in South Africa?
Pieter Groenewald: They are quite aware of the problem. But the government of today, they only see it as normal criminality. They don’t want to see it as a specific crime, as far as the farmers are concerned, and I say it is not normal criminality, because, I mean, it cannot be just normal criminality if the perpetrators come at 9 o’clock in the morning, the farmer and his wife went to church, they, visit their friends, and when they return at 3 o’clock – they kill them. It is not just normal criminality, if they torture the victims, using electric drills, drilling through women’s legs and feet, and also if they rape the women. So, it is not normal criminality. We say that there is a political element, and it is also linked to the land, because the land issue in South Africa is becoming more prominent, and it is central for our general election next year – 2019.
Sputnik: What are the ways to deal with this problem? Is there a political solution?
Pieter Groenewald: Well, first, what has to be done is, political leaders in South Africa must stop saying that the land in South Africa has been stolen by white people. By that, they are creating a specific climate, where the masses and the majority of black people think that we are a group of thieves just because we’re white. Even president Zuma in 2016 said at the anniversary of the governing party that “you, you – masses are poor because you don’t have land, and you are unemployed because you don’t have land, and there is inequality in South Africa because you don’t have land, and we know who has stolen the land.” – I mean, you’re creating an atmosphere. So, political leaders must lead in a responsible way, to say that “we cannot allow them to say that white people are actually criminals,” because if you say that they have stolen the land, you’re actually calling them criminals. Secondly, the government must realize that these crimes against the farmers are not a normal crime, it’s not normal criminality, as I said. And we say that they should come forward with specialized units to combat these specific crimes in the rural areas because you need special units who understand what’s happening as far as the farmer is concerned, and if you do these three things – it will improve the situation.
Sputnik: South Africa is hosting the BRICS summit this summer. Do you see such events as a chance to attract international attention to the problems of the country’s minorities?
Pieter Groenewald: I appeal to the world: please, also raise your voice against this atrocity which is actually taking place in South Africa regarding farm murders. By doing that you’re putting pressure on the South African government. And even the government hears from all over the world “listen, we’re not going to invest in South Africa because you don’t intend to do anything as far as farm murders are concerned.” By doing that they would start forcing the South African government to, for instance, understand that it’s not a normal crime, and to stop all the hate speech, because, that’s nothing else but hate speech by political leaders. (Sputnik)
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has sent a warning to a group of military retirees set to embark on a peaceful protest over non-payment of their pensions and gratuity, in Abuja.
This was even as the DHQ has advised the group of pensioners to get the relevant permit from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police command before embarking on their protest tagged “LIBERATION”, scheduled to hold on Wednesday. The defence headquarters claimed the warning was to forestall any breakdown of law, order and breach of the peace, as the protesters would have themselves to blame.
Director, Defence Information, Major-General John Enenche, who made this known in a statement issued, in Abuja, urged the group to explore the available channels of seeking redress through the appropriate organisations and establishments of ex-servicemen and Armed Forces of Nigeria to settle their cases.
Enenche, in the statement made available to Daily Sun, said “The Defence Headquarters has been informed of the planned protest tagged “LIBERATION” by a group of military pensioners, on 13 September 2017, in Abuja.
“In this regard, the group is advised to get the legal permit from the Nigerian Police before embarking on such an exercise.
“This is to forestall any breakdown of law, order and breach of the peace.
“Objectively, the Defence Headquarters hereby advice the group of military pensioners involved in this plan, to desist and remain law abiding. The group is further adjured to explore the available channels of seeking redress through the appropriate organs/establishments of ex-servicemen and Armed Forces of Nigeria.
He said “This is for the information and necessary action of all military pensioners. It is equally for the awareness of the general public”. (The Sun)