A Lagos-based lawyer and civil rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, has called on federal authorities to immediately free Omoyele Sowore, a Nigerian publisher and activist, who was arrested overnight in Lagos.
Mr Sowore was picked up by state agents said to be from the State Security Service (SSS) at his residence in Lagos at about 1:30 a.m., although no official confirmation had been obtained as of 8:10 a.m. Saturday.
The arrest comes two days before a nationwide protest being coordinated by Mr Sowore. The protest, tagged ‘RevolutionNow’, was scheduled to take off across Nigeria on August 5 to demand a better Nigeria.
Mr Effiong, himself a part of the planned protest, told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday morning that Mr Sowore’s arrest indicates that authorities have considered his call for a revolution, an illegal act.
“But it is not illegal to call for a revolution in any democracy,” Mr Effiong said. “Calling for a revolution is not treasonable under any guise.”
Mr Effiong said the planned protest, also known as ‘Day of Rage’, had specific demands that were outlined for the government’s urgent action.
“People in Hong Kong have been protesting for a change in political order for the past two months, and people in Puerto Rico just used peaceful rallies to out their governor for being incompetent,” Mr Effiong said.
“If it is happening all over the world, why should it be different in Nigeria? The fact that someone has won an election as president does not mean he will be immune from criticism or being asked to resign from office,” he added.
The SSS has not returned multiple requests for comments from PREMIUM TIMES about Mr Sowore’s arrest. But Nigerian security operatives regularly crackdown on protests and dissenting critical voices, despite several court orders asserting the rights of citizens to a peaceful assembly.
Protest will go on
Nigerians had been quick to demand Mr Sowore’s release, with several potential demonstrators warning that the ‘RevolutionNow’ matches would go on whether or not Mr Sowore remained in custody beyond August 5.
Organisers said the government should focus on addressing the issues that informed the planned demonstration, rather than cracking down on citizens for exercising their rights to speech, association and assembly.
“We have a list of demands,” Mr Effiong said. “And everything borders around good governance.”
The protesters said the demand had been broken down into three phases, each of which contains a laundry of critical issues that must be addressed — failure over which the protest would not cease.
* First Bundle: End anti-people economic policies
* Second Bundle: End special privileges for the ruling class
* Third Bundle: Return political power and national wealth to the working people
The details of these bundles include:
First Bundle: End Anti-People Economic Policies:
* Return of fuel prices and electricity tariffs to their levels in 1999, the immediate repair of all the refineries, pipelines and fuel depots in Nigeria and, an end to the importation of fuel.
* End to estimated and inflated billing by the electricity distribution companies and to their extortion of money from consumers for transformers, poles, cables, etc.
* No devaluation of the Naira.
* End to the insecurity and constant bloodletting in the country but by methods that respect human rights and justice and the sack of the current set of service chiefs for their self-evident incompetence in their duties.
* Abolition of tuition fees and inflated service charges in all public universities and secondary schools.
* Immediate payment of the N30,000 minimum wage, with annual increases pegged to the rate of inflation and to the national average rate of profit of multinational corporations operating in Nigeria and of all local private companies employing more than 100 workers (irrespective of the contract status of such workers).
* The immediate release of all political prisoners, including Shi’ite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, and an immediate stop to the persecution of people based on their political or religious beliefs or their ethnicity.
* The immediate payment of all outstanding salaries of workers and pensions of retirees.
* The immediate implementation of all agreements the government and private sector employers have signed with the trade unions at all levels and in all sectors.
* A massive public works and services program in every sector and level of the economy as well as in the urban and rural areas to provide employment for unemployed youths.
Second Bundle: End Special Privileges for the Ruling Class:
* All public officials in elective, appointive, or senior administrative positions must be banned from educating their children or dependants in private schools in Nigeria or in schools in foreign countries.
* These officials, their immediate family, and their dependants must be banned also from obtaining healthcare in private hospitals in Nigeria or in hospitals in foreign countries.
* These officials must also receive basic salaries and allowances not higher than those received by the highest paid professors in public Nigerian universities.
* An immediate end to the use of police or military personnel as private security guards for these officials.
* Except for the president and governors, these officials and their immediate family must not live in class-exclusive estates or other similar places of residence but among the working people who they serve.
Third Bundle: Return Political Power and National Wealth to the Working People:
* The complete and uncompensated repossession by the working people of all national resources stolen by the ruling class and their foreign masters through the fraudulent privatisation of public resources since 1986.
* The complete and uncompensated seizure by the working people of all private wealth accumulated by public officials (as defined above) during and after their tenure of service whose value exceeds their total lawful and demonstrable income during and after that tenure.
* The complete socialisation of all land in the country and declaration of access to land as a basic right, by this means to break the monopoly of the ruling class on ownership and access to land in the country and thus make land available to the poor who live by farming and those who need to build their own houses.
* To break the stranglehold of the ruling class on political power by banning from politics all who have stolen the people’s money and property since 1960 and those who have been in elective or appointive political office for more at any time before and since 1999, ending the influence of money and god-fathers in politics, imposing term-limits for national and state lawmakers, completely liberating local governments from state government control, returning power from the national and state levels to governing councils controlled by citizens at the town, city, and village levels, etc.
* To reduce the cost of governance by abolishing the Senate, thus establishing a uni-cameral legislature with only the House of Representatives; and by abolishing constituency projects to end the theft of public money through such projects.
* Abolishing the death penalty except for the embezzling or privatisation of the public wealth.
* Producing a new constitution for Nigeria by a democratic and people-led process involving open discussion, debate, and determination of proposals and suggestions by the working people in towns and villages, in factories, on farms, in the Diaspora, on school campuses, in neighbourhoods, market places, workplaces, mass media, social media, etc.