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Intervene on rights abuses, Sowore, Jalingo, others detention, SERAP charges NJC

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to dissuade the Federal Government from using the courts to suppress citizens’ rights.It charged the CJN to urgently intervene in the case of Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo, who have been detained for exercising their fundamental rights, describing the trend as disturbing.

In a letter to the CJN, the group urged the CJN to “urgently develop measures and issue directives to all courts to respond to the disturbing trend.”In the letter dated October 4, 2019, its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, it said, “Across the country, some state governors and the Federal Government are charging citizens, mostly journalists, bloggers and activists with treason, treasonable felony or insulting public officials.”

It noted that the charges, refusal of bail and granting of bail on stringent conditions were dangerous manipulations of judicial authority and functions by politicians, a development the NJC and the judiciary should resist.

“The NJC ought to push back and act as protector of individuals’ rights against abuses by the authorities and stop the increasing clampdown on human rights, especially of journalists and activists by state governments and Federal Government.

“We believe that the courts and not the state government or Federal Government, should have the final say in matters of citizens’ rights.“The NJC should ensure that when the authorities disobey court orders and suppress human rights, they are not allowed to come to the court and seek reliefs until they purge their contempt. Otherwise, the justice system and the Nigerian constitution become a solemn mockery,” the letter reads.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, read in part: “If the practice is allowed to continue, the courts will be relegated to destitute and that will lead to arbitrary and unrestricted suppression of citizens’ rights.

“In several cases, journalists, bloggers and activists have either been denied bail, as in the case of Agba Jalingo or granted bail with stringent conditions that violate human rights, as in the case of journalists and activist Sowore and Bakare. In all the cases, the alleged offences are not constitutionally and internationally recognised,” it added.


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