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SERAP drags FG, Kogi to UN over detention of activists

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Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello. Photo/KINGLEYFANWO

Socio-economy Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a complaint to the United Nations (UN) over the detention and alleged ill-treatment of activists, Larry Emmanuel and Victor Udoka, for peacefully exercising their rights to protest in Kogi State.

The complaint, signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP called on the UN group to initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the cases of Emmanuel and Udoka.

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It also urged the UN to write to the Nigerian and Kogi authorities inquiring about the case generally, and specifically about the legal basis for their arrest, detention, and ill-treatment.

According to SERAP, the arrest and continued detention of Emmanuel and Udoka is a violation of their human rights.

“The Nigerian and Kogi authorities have violated the following rights under the Nigerian 1999 Constitution and international law in continuing to detain Emmanuel and Udoka: the right to be free from arbitrary detention, the right to freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and the right to due process of law,” SERAP stated said.

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In the complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention dated May 25, 2021, the organisation stated that “the detention of the activists constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty because it does not have any legal justification. The detention also does not meet minimum international standards of due process.”

The complaint addressed to the Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, Ms. Elina Steinerte, read in part: “As set forth in this Individual Complaint, the Nigerian and Kogi State authorities are arbitrarily depriving Emmanuel and Udoka of their liberty and continues to arbitrarily detain them. They are citizens of Nigeria and have been detained since April 5, 2021. They continue to be detained without access to the outside world.

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“Pursuant to the mandate of the Working Group, the ‘Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council’, and the publication, ‘Working with the UN Human Rights Programme, a Handbook for Civil Society’, the non-governmental human rights organisation can provide information on a specific human rights case or situation in a particular country, or on a country’s laws and practices with human rights implications.”

The activists’ lawyer, Benjami Omeiza, said he had no access to his clients and that while negotiating for their release, Kogi quickly arranged for a magistrate to order their detention in prison, without notice.

SERAP, therefore, urged the UN to issue an opinion declaring that Emmanuel and Udoka’s deprivation of liberty and detention as arbitrary and violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international law.

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