The Coalition of Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CPFWP) has called for the release of Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, by the Nigerian government.
The group made the call in a joint statement signed by its programme officer and 15 of its members on Wednesday.
Mr Sowore, an activist and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the 2019 elections, was arrested in Lagos early Saturday by SSS operatives.
The authorities accused him of planning to overthrow the government after Mr Sowore called for nationwide protests to enthrone good governance in the country.
The police inspector general, Mohammed Adamu, said the call for a “revolution” constituted an “act of terrorism”.
The protests, under the #RevolutionNow banner, held in different cities, including Lagos and Abuja, on Monday despite Mr Sowore’s arrest.
The government responded with immense force, with armed security officers attacking and brutalising protesters and journalists who attempted to cover the events.
Prominent Nigerians have condemned Mr Sowore’s arrest and the clampdown on peaceful protesters, with some accusing the President Buhari administration of curbing civic rights in ways not seen since 1999.
The group said the treason allegation against Mr Sowore is illegal, citing section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution and Chapter 9, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that provides for Right to Freedom of Assembly.
“The arrest of Mr Sowore on allegations of treason is of grave concern to the Coalition. The constitution gives the right for Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Protests in section 22, 26 and 39 of the Nigerian constitution and these rights cannot be ignored by any individual or government, least of all a democratically elected government.
“In a democratic government, Chapter 9, Article 11 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides for Right to Freedom of Assembly Chapter 4 Section 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria guarantees the right to freedom of assembly. ”
The group said the Press Attack Tracker initiative, has shown that in the last four years of this current administration, violations against the press has shot up by 70 per cent in comparison to the previous administrations.
The coalition called on President Muhammadu Buhari to release Mr Sowore and drop all charges against him.
“The coalition reiterates that no democracy worth its salt can abide by these violations of constitutionally guaranteed rights and thus calls on President Muhammadu Buhari, who has sworn an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, to immediately release Mr Omoyele Sowore with all allegations against him dropped.
“Several members of this coalition have suffered harassments and infringement of their rights, the most recent being the threats of reprisals on the publisher and members of staff of OrderPaper by Honorable Tony Nwulu a member of the House of Representatives.
“Outside of the coalition, the persistent name-calling and harassment of Amnesty Nigeria, an international human rights organisation is another disturbing sign of how far off-kilter the country and its administrators have fallen,” it said.
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