The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the violent re-arrest of Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare in the court premises describing it 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” which on December 4, 2019 ordered their release from the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) within 24 hours.
CWPPF said in a statement issued on December 7, 2019 that it was a reckless display of brutality and lawlessness by operatives of the 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 the day before, less than 24 hours after he was released from a 124-day detention.
It 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.
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.
It described the action of the armed DSS operatives who invaded the court while in session in an effort to re-arrest Sowore and Bakare, who have 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 noted that prior to the release of Sowore and Bakare on December 5, 2019, the DSS had consistently undermined the authority of the courts by refusing to release them 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 stressed that the brazen acts of disrespect to the court and disobedience of its orders, should not go unpunished.
CWPPF called on the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to urgent 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 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.
CWPPF is a national alliance of media and civil society organisations, comprising of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Civic Media Lab, and International Press Centre (IPC)
Other organisations within the Coalition are Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Daily Trust Newspaper, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), HEDA Resource Centre, Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), OrderPaper, Paradigm Initiative (P.I), Premium Times (PT), Sahara Reporters (SR), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), The Cable and Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).