…Say inciting Nigerians to join protests treasonable
…Nigerians condemn arrest, urge support for revolution
…We must stand together to demand his release – CDHR, HURIWA, Durotoye, Timi Frank, others
…NLC, TUC dissociate from protest
The Nigeria Police Force has accused the convener of #RevolutionNow Protests, Omoyele Sowore and the Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria of trying to force a regime change in the country.
The Police said inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, August 5, amounts to treasonable felony and acts
Sowore, pro-democracy activist and the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last general elections, had been sensitising a critical mass of Nigerians, through various platforms, in readiness for #RevolutionNow, a series of planned protests against bad governance, scheduled for tomorrow.
But operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) arrested him in the early hours of Saturday at about 1.25 a.m. in his apartment.
In a statement yesterday, Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said the Police would not stand idly-by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the country.
He said: “While acknowledging the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, the Force wishes to note that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government, which clearly is the meaning of ‘revolution.’ Needless to state that Nigeria is a democratic republic and has well-defined processes for change of government, exercised periodically during various cycle of elections.
“The Force therefore warns the organisers, sponsors, allies, supporters, associates and sympathisers of the group ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria’ to, in their own interest, steer clear of any such planned protest, demonstration, acts of incitement and proposed “revolution”, as the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any individual or group engaged or found participating in the planned criminal act.”
Mba called on parents and guardians to impress on their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used by any person or group of persons to cause breach of law and order, as the Police would work with other Law Enforcement Agencies and positive minded Nigerians to protect, defend and secure public peace and space.
Sowore’s arrest has, however, drawn widespread condemnation, with Nigerians calling for his immediate release.
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos State Branch, and the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore.
In a statement by the chairman of its Lagos branch, Comrade Alex Omotehinse, CDHR reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, gave Sowore or any other Nigerian, the right to protest and freedom of expression with right to lawful assembly.
“The President must be called to order by the National Assembly and he must know that this is a Democratic government not military government,” the group said.
HURIWA stressed that the arrest of Sowore was a culmination of the systematic clampdown and organised brutish attacks, targeting persons and groups with divergent opinion.
In a statement by the national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group accused the DSS of illegally bugging telephones of prominent civil rights leaders, including leaders of HURIWA, adding that the fundamentals of the practice of constitutional democracy are animated by the protection and promotion of the basic constitutional freedoms of speech.
Former Presidential candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN),
Fela Durotoye, called on Nigerians to stand together in demanding the immediate release of the pro-democracy activist.
Durotoye said Sowore only lent his voice to “our collective frustration as a people,” noting that every Nigerian has a constitutional right to Freedom of Speech and peaceful protest.
In the same vein, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, condemned Sowere’s arrest, while appealling to other comrades not to lose focus.
Frank said the country needed such massive protest now more than ever before, because of the killings, kidnapping, banditry, hunger, unemployment, economic disaster and all manners of mismanagement going on.
In a statement in Abuja, Frank said the protest was not about the convener but about the survival of Nigeria as a country.
He called on Tunde Bakare, Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and others, whom he described as ‘fathers of protesters,’ to support Sowere’s idea if they were not also supporting the evil currently going on in the country.
According to Frank, it is the constitutional right of the citizens to protest when they are dissatisfied with anything in a democratic government.
He said that all over the world, citizens were expressing their disaffections without being arrested by their governments, and reminded General Muhammadu Buhari of how he led protests in 2003 when he was in ANPP and 2014 before he emerged the Nigerian President.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have said that there were no plans to take part in any national day of protests.
The President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba said in Abuja yesterday that none of its affiliates and civil society allies were involved in staging any protest in any part of the country. This was as the TUC President, Quadri Olaleye said the Labour Centre is not in league with any group whatsoever for any mass action in any part of the country.
He added that there were no issues in contention with any public authority that has not been subjected to social dialogue that will now require extra ordinary means or action to resolve.