By Akanimo Sampson
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a civic group, has written off the civil rule in Nigeria, claiming that more than 20 years after the abortion of military dictatorship, the country is still not yet a constitutional democracy.
The group also took on the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guteres, accusing him of aiding and abetting the alleged rise of incipient tyranny in Africa’s most populous country.
While asking President Muhammadu Buhari to comply with clearly established constitutional norms and allow for unfettered enjoyments of the constitutionally safeguarded freedoms, HURIWA further lashed out at the UN scribe for allegedly conferring a global status on the Nigerian government that according to them, is keeping over a dozen political prisoners through a combination of reward system such as the appointment of Buhari’s Environment Minister, Mrs Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary General and another Northern Nigerian appointee of the President, as President of the UN General Assembly, Professor Tijani Muhammad-Bande.
HURIWA has accordingly reminded Buhari that since his administration has produced the president of the UN General Assembly which according to the group, ‘’is a phenomenal momentum in the life of the administration, it would be ironical that his government has become so repressive and intolerant of opposition views and has made the country a police state even amidst widespread insecurity and professional misconduct by the Police.
‘’Nigeria has never been this bad with a general collapse of law enforcement by the police and an unprecedented rise in arbitrary arrests and detention. We are a police state whose police operatives are grossly incompetent to be able to go after the criminals making life intolerable for millions of Nigerians and at the same time the police and the sister security service, the Department of State Services (DSS) have become willing tools in the hands of the Abuja tyrant who has since unleashed a regime of brutal clampdown on civil activists and journalists brandishing choreographed charges that lack justification.
‘’It is indeed a big irony that whilst Nigeria is becoming a police state due to the execution of well-coordinated attacks on pro-democracy activists and journalists using the security forces of DSS and a brutal but inefficient police force, the same administration is at the same time credited with reaching a global milestone in the specific case of a diplomatic achievement of having an appointee of the repressive and brutal regime ascending the prestigious seat of the presidency of the UN General Assembly for one year.
‘’It is either that the United Nation system is tolerant of dictatorship or the hierarchy of the United Nations is dangerously incompetent and uninformed about the stark realities of excruciating pains systematically inflicted by the current federal government on a massive scale targeting millions of Nigerians.’’
HURIWA National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, who said all these in a statement added that there was no evidence anywhere in Nigeria to show that the country is in a constitutional democracy, the group then wondered how a government that was supposedly produced through the ballots, ‘’will so regress to a level that free speech is criminalised and journalists and activists are hounded and thrown into detention for a long period of time even as the nation’s judiciary has capitulated to the coordinated firepower of repression using security forces and anti-corruption agencies.’’
Continuing, the group said a publisher of an online news portal, Agba Jalingo, has been in police detention for over a week, over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, which he wrote for which the Federal Government has allegedly allowed the governor to deploy federally funded security forces to arrest, detain and now institute a charge of treason.
According to them, Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested and detained over a petition by the government’s owned microfinance bank following the report in his newspaper which has relentlessly criticized Governor Ayade.
‘’The journalist who was arrested in Lagos and driven by road to Calabar, the capital city of the Cross River State, had sued the police over his arrest and detention, which he said were illegal and a breach of his fundamental human rights. He is asking a court to order the police to pay him N150 million as damages for the manner he was allegedly maltreated.
‘’But while a judge is yet to hear Jalingo’s fundamental human rights case, the police have instituted a four-count charge of treasonable felony, terrorism, cultism, and the disturbance of public peace on the journalist.
‘’The charges which were filled at the Federal High Court in Calabar, also indicated that Jalingo was working with the RevolutionNow movement of the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, to destabilise the government and undemocratically force the government of Ayade to end through violent means’’, the group said.
HURIWA said it believes that ‘’the use of the federal might to deal with the journalist goes to confirm that there is indeed a well calculated agenda unfolding whose objective is to institute full blown tyranny at every levels of government and to curtail the enjoyment of constitutional freedoms.’’
It is also accusing Abuja of ‘’crude vendetta’’ against the publisher of Saharareporters.com going by the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) accused Sowore, a former presidential candidate, of planning to forcibly topple the government through his #RevolutionNow protest.
Sowore who was arrested by the DSS is being held on court-ordered extended detention for 45 days. But the secret police, according to HURIWA claimed that it suspected that Sowore, a candidate in Nigeria’s last presidential election wanted to work with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) to topple the government of President Buhari.
‘’The federal government proscribtion of both IPOB and IMN as terrorist organisations shows that constitutional democracy is under intensive attacks by elements embedded in the federal government. It is also inconceivable that the court agreed due to fear, to grant indefinite detention order against Sowore even when the DSS said in an affidavit attached to its counter-argument against the application of Sowore challenging his detention that they have proofs of a plot by the activist to topple government.
‘’We are shock that the judge refused the bail application even when under the constitution an accused person is assumed innocent until a contrary determination is reached through a court of law. The affidavit read: The respondent/applicant (Sowore) planned to violently change the government through the hashtag RevolutionNow. We are therefore, demanding for the umpteenth time, the immediate release of all the political prisoners by the federal government’’, HURIWA said.