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CSOs berate security agencies over citizens’ rights

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Coalition of civil society groups has condemned what it described as the harassment of democratic and humanitarian organizations, restrictions on rights to press freedom, speech and association by security agencies.

The coalition also condemned the siege on the offices of Sahara Reporters, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Action Against Hunger (AAH) and call on security forces and government officials involved in “this illegality to back down and allow journalists, activists and civil society to operate freely.”

It would be recalled that in the early hours of September 18, 2019, the Lagos state office of online news platform, Sahara reporters was allegedly barricaded by Nigeria security agencies.

Simultaneously, the premises of CDHR was invaded by officers from the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Police to forestall plans of members of the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) and other civil society activists from protesting the protracted detention of Mr. Omoyele Sowore.

Sowore has been in detention since August 3, 2019, after he was arrested by officers of the DSS for planning a protest against the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Also, soldiers allegedly invaded the Damaturu and Maiduguri offices of an international humanitarian organization, AAH, a body that has operated in Nigeria since 2010.

As a result of all those, the coalition, made up of six groups, is now demanding that the Army pulls out of the offices of AAH immediately and make a public apology for its actions.

“Nigeria’s security and law enforcement agencies must respect citizens’ constitutional rights to speak openly and freely, and to associate together for this purpose. Nigeria expresses itself as a constitutional state and its agencies must respect the limits of their powers and the rights of citizens. Security and law enforcement agencies must prioritize respect to the Constitution more than to a sitting government. The use of State powers to serve political ends represents a corrupt use of that power.

“The Nigerian government must release Sowore and all those arrested in connection with the public protests he was leading. Criminalizing civil society actors who campaign for good governance is undemocratic and vindictive, and serves no useful public purpose,” the group said.

Those who endorsed this call are Joseph Otteh and Daniel Igiekhumhe of Access to Justice; Collin Okeke of Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS); Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN) of Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP); Okechukwu Nwaguma of Rule of Law and Accountability Centre (RULAC); Emmanuel Ikule of The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN); Emmanuel Ikule and Amanda Uwandu of Avocats Sans Frontieres France.


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