Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and four other human rights and anti-corruption non-governmental organisations have called on the Nigerian authorities to promptly and transparently investigate the serious physical assault on Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, a prominent anti-corruption activist, and his family members at their home in Lagos on March 28, 2022.
The groups in a statement jointly signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda; ‘Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria); Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC); and Biola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women and Documentation Research Centre (WARDC) said the suspected perpetrators must be promptly identified and brought to justice.
They cited reports that five unidentified armed men invaded the home of Mr Suraju, Chairman of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and Co-Chair of the Anti-Corruption Thematic Working Group of the Open Government Partnership in Nigeria (OGP Nigeria), at around 2:15am on Monday, 28th March 2022, breaching the Estate’s Security and cutting off the security features in his house.
The armed men, they said, assaulted Mr Suraju and his wife, both of whom were thereafter hospitalised as a result of the assault. The assailants also reportedly took away some valuable items belonging to the family, including phones, bank cards, jewelery, and a car.
They expressed seriously concern about the brutal attack on an outspoken critic of the government saying: “This vicious attack was apparently meant not just to intimidate Lanre and his family members but to seriously injure them – and perhaps even to kill them. The aim seems to be to stop his human rights and anti-corruption work.”
They warned that those responsible for the attack must not enjoy impunity because any failure to investigate the attack could send a dangerous message that would make other activists vulnerable to attack.
The groups urged the Nigerian authorities to get to the bottom of the attack and protect Lanre’s right to do his human rights and anti-corruption work. The government should urgently order a full, impartial and transparent investigation into the attack and prosecute those responsible.
They also expressed fear that Lanre might be in danger if the authorities fail to guarantee his safety, reminding the authorities that “Nigeria has a responsibility to respect and protect the rights of human rights defenders, as contained in Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as well as to provide effective remedies for any violations of these rights.”
They pointed out that human rights defenders and activists should be able to carry out their work without any fear of reprisals or violent repercussions.
The groups also called on the Nigerian authorities to seriously examine all possible motives behind the attack, including the possibility that Lanre was targeted for his legitimate human rights and anti-corruption work that includes a few high-profile cases.
They also asked the Nigerian authorities to make clear that they will not tolerate intimidation and violence against activists simply for doing their jobs. Authorities should ensure that everyone engaged in protecting and promoting human rights, transparency and accountability in Nigeria can do so in a safe and enabling environment.