Trending Story

Sowore, Jalingo: SERAP writes NJC, seeks directives on citizens’ rights

114

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent an open letter to Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), urging him to use his offices and leadership of the NJC to “urgently develop measures and issue directives to all courts to respond to the disturbing trends by state governments and federal government to use the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights.”

 

SERAP said: “Across the country, state governors and federal government are charging citizens, mostly journalists, bloggers and activists, with serious crimes such as ‘treason’, ‘treasonable felony’ or bogus crime of ‘insulting public officials’, simply for exercising their human rights.”

 

In the letter dated 4 October 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “These charges, refusal of bail and granting of bail on stringent conditions seem to be dangerous manipulation of judicial authority and functions by high-ranking politicians, something which the NJC and the judiciary under your watch should resist.”

 

SERAP also said: “In the climate of a growing clampdown on human rights of journalists and activists by several state governments and federal government, the NJC ought to push back and act as protector of individuals’ rights against abuses by the authorities. We believe that the courts, not the state government or federal government, should have the final say in matters of citizens’ human rights.”

 

According to the organization, “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, copied to Mr. Diego GARCÍA-SAYÁN, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, read in part: “If the practice by state governments and federal government is allowed to continue, the courts will be relegated to desuetude, and will lead to arbitrary and unrestricted power as well as further suppression of citizens’ human rights.”

 

“It is essential for the NJC to issue directives to all courts to promptly consider on the face of the papers filed by the authorities whether the charges brought against journalists, bloggers and activists are truly based on facts or fabricated to secure indefinite detention of citizens with judicial authority.”

 

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

 

“It is important for the judiciary to exercise all the judicial power placed in its hands by the constitution with firm determination and to guard against encroachments on that power by either the state governments or the federal government.”

 

“Even during many years of military dictatorship when the constitution was suspended and with it, Nigerians’ fundamental rights, the judiciary was still able to play an important role in securing protection of individuals’ rights and rejecting any forms of executive rascality by drawing on a variety of sources, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

 

“The return of democracy in 1999 gave rise to a legitimate public expectation that the NJC and the judiciary would be more active and proactive in enforcing the fundamental rights of Nigerians and pushing back in cases of violations and abuses of those rights, for the sake of the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended) and as a step forward for increased accountability and greater integrity in government.”

 

“Nigerians now have a high degree of scepticism about the ability of the authorities at the state and federal levels to protect their human rights. We urge you to ensure that the NJC and the judiciary consistently demonstrate their original and sacred functions of standing between government and the governed.”

 

“Charging citizens for crimes of treason and treasonable felony or ‘insult’ simply for exercising their human rights shows the authorities’ lack of commitment to protecting the human rights of all Nigerians, particularly those who perform critical roles and contribute to strengthening and sustaining the Nigerian democratic system.”

 

“No government should have the power to use the courts as a tool of overriding the rights of individuals. The NJC has a responsibility to ensure that the courts play a central role in enforcing fundamental rights, and ensuring that the authorities do not use the courts as a tool to charge citizens with crimes, which are not constitutionally and internationally recognizable, simply for exercising their human rights.”

 

“Democracy requires some protection of the weak from the strong. The NJC ought to push for courts’ activism in the area of human rights, especially at this time when the authorities are regularly clamping down on citizens’ human rights. This will enhance democracy, the rule of law, and will be entirely consistent with the constitutional role of the judiciary.”

 

“Human rights and constitutional principles are fundamental and it is the role of an independent judiciary to give effect to those rights and principles, within the rule of law.”

 

“We believe that the NJC can ensure that the courts are better protectors of human rights than the executive at state and federal levels can ever be. Indeed, Nigerians including journalists, bloggers and activists require protection from both the state governments and federal government.”

 

“We believe that it is only an independent and courageous judiciary that can ensure full respect for the human rights of those brought before the courts by the authorities.”

 

“Agba Jalingo, journalist and publisher of the online CrossRiverWatch, is charged with treason over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade. According to our information, a Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River State, and presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda on October 4 2019 denied him bail. He was handcuffed to another inmate when he appeared in court.”

 

“Similarly, journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari, simply for exercising their human rights.”

 

“Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted Sowore and Bakare bail but imposed stringent conditions that implicitly violate their constitutional rights to personal liberty, presumption of innocence, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.”

 

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your action by ensuring that the NJC is able to urgently respond to the threats to judicial independence and authority highlighted above. We would be happy to provide further information or to discuss any of these issues in more detail with you.”

 

Leave a comment

Related Articles

Billionaire philanthropist Tony Elumelu mulls buying NPFL team

As part of his corporate social responsibility, billionaire banker and philanthropist Tony...

Terry G speaks on Davido, Wizkid, and Burna Boy rivalries, faces backlash from fans

Nigerian music sensation Terry G, also known as the Apako master, has...

Dani Alves pays €1m bail, set to leave Spanish jail

Former Brazil and Barcelona star Dani Alves, convicted of rape in Spain,...

World TB Day: 70 percent of TB cases in Africa now being diagnosed and treated – WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has disclosed that about 70 percent of...

13th AAG: Tobi Amusan wins gold in women’s 100m hurdles

The Nigerian sprint star, Tobi Amusan, won gold in the women’s 100m...

FG approves N12.7bln for mass metering of army barracks nationwide

The Federal Government says it has released N12.7 billion to provide electricity...

Women’s Day: Tinubu felicitates women, vows to prioritise their welfare, rights

President Bola Tinubu has promised to prioritize the welfare of women, protect...

All African Games: Nigeria’s Flying Eagles start their campaign on a losing note

The Flying Eagles of Nigeria started their campaign in the men’s football...

EFCC sets up task force to combat dollarization of economy, mutilation of naira

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has announced the setting up...

How Bafarawa diverted N4.6bln from ex-NSA for prayers, election, acquire luxury vehicles

A startling revelation has been made about how a former governor of...

CBN redeploys 1,500 staff to Lagos

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says it has redeployed 1,500 staff...

AFCON: Pres. Tinubu says unimpressed with Super Eagles’ performance

President Bola Tinubu has expressed his displeasure over the performance of the...

I’ve not met a man kind enough to marry —Ini Edo

In a candid revelation, renowned actress, Ini Edo, has hinted about the...

Ogun CP visits shot Nollywood actor, Ijaduade, vows to punish trigger-happy cop

Nollywood actor and Director, Azeez Ijaduade, who was shot “accidentally” by a...

Breaking: Actor, Azeez Ijaduade, allegedly shot by policeman in Ogun

In a shocking incident that has sent shock waves to Yoruba section...

Fast and furious actor, Vin Diesel, accused of sexual assault

Vin Diesel, known for his role in the Fast & Furious Series,...

Anyone asking for money this festive season lacks conscience, fear God – Comedian AY

Amid Nigeria’s challenging economic downturn, renowned comedian, Ayo Makun, popularly known as...

Octogenarian actor, Dejumo Lewis, dies

Nollywood community was on Friday night thrown into grief as the news...

I’m lucky to have you as my wife, Lateef praises Mo Bimpe on 2nd wedding anniversary

Celebrating their second year wedding anniversary, Nollywood actor, Lateef Adedimeji, has expressed...

Frank Edoho faces backlash for controversial remarks on infidelity

Renowned media personality, Frank Edoho, is under fire after making contentious comments...