Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the African Union (AU) to suspend Nigeria over alleged invasion by the Department of State Security (DSS) in a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The human rights group made the call in a statement released on Sunday.
“We’re calling on African Union to immediately suspend Nigeria following the invasion of the Justice Ojukwu’s court, violent re-arrest of Sowore and Bakare in court, persistent disobedience of court orders and persecution of activists and journalists by state governors.
” The UN, African Union, African commission on human and peoples’ rights and members of the international community can make a unique impact by speaking forcefully and publicly in defense of human rights, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Nigeria. “
The group also condemned the statement issued by the Presidency
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Muhammadu Buhari, comparing Sowore with Boko Haram militants.
SERAP, therefore, stated that Sowore and his codefendant, Olawale Bakare is not a terrorist, and it is unacceptable to compare citizens who are also activists simply exercising their human rights including to freedom of expression with militants who are killing and destroying property.
“Freedom of expression is not yet a crime under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).
“What is happening to Sowore and Bakare shows clear attempts by the Nigerian authorities to further silence critics, activists, and the media while they continue to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
“This is illustrated through persistent disobedience of court orders, and as we witnessed last week, the invasion of Justice Ojukwu’s court by the DSS.”
In what the group described as persecution, they said it is sending a chilling and unambiguous message to all Nigerians, adding that the move is a systematic effort aimed at silencing independent media and critical voices in Nigeria to prevent public scrutiny of governments at both the Federal and state levels.
“Nigerian authorities now need to begin to protect citizens’ human rights and the rule of law. That should start with the immediate withdrawal of the bogus charges against Sowore and Bakare and the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore from arbitrary detention.
“We are concerned that Nigerian authorities continue to openly scorn the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s human rights commitments. This concerted attack on the rule of law must stop.