The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) says the charge of treasonable felony filed against the detained Convener of #RevolutionNow Protest, Omoyele Sowore, is a mockery of justice.
It said that it was a breach of the rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom, asking the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to, without delay, discontinue the prosecution of Sowore.
Concise News reports that the Department of State Services (DSS), also known as State Security Service (SSS), charged Sowore to court for treasonable felony, cybercrime among other counts on Friday.
The charges were signed on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), by Aminu Alilu, a Chief State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) has been in the detention of the security outfit since August 3, 2019.
Sowore was arrested for organising the RevolutionNow protest, which the DSS described as a treasonable offence.
But SERAP said in a letter signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, and addressed to Malami, that the government’s handling of the case was persecution and not prosecution.
“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,” it asked the Minister of Justice.
“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.
“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 also read that “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.”