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Activists decry ‘threats’ to constitutional rights

A COALITION of civil society organisations (CSOs) has condemned what it called threats to constitutional democracy and human rights from security and law enforcement agencies.

It said security and law enforcement agencies must prioritise respect for the Constitution over a sitting government.

“The use of state powers to serve political ends represents a corrupt use of that power,” the coalition said in a statement.

It was jointly signed by Joseph Otteh and Daniel Igiekhumhe of the Access to Justice, Collin Okeke (Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), Chinonye Obiagwu (SAN) (Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Emmanuel Ikule (Rule of Law and Accountability Centre (RULAC) and Okechukwu Nwaguma (Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN).

The coalition recalled that last Wednesday, the Lagos office of Sahara Reporters was allegedly barricaded by soldiers, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the police.

“Simultaneously, the premises of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) were invaded by officers from the DSS and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).

“Last week too, soldiers invaded the Damaturu and Maiduguri offices of an international humanitarian organisation, Action Against Hunger (AAH), a body that has been operating in Nigeria since 2010,” the statement said.

The CSOs condemned the actions, saying they constitute arbitrary and warrantless violations of the fundamental rights of citizens to assemble peacefully and to express themselves, as enshrined in sections 39, 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The coalition said the army allegedly overreached its powers through its unlawful siege of AAH.

“We are worried that ominous clouds of authoritarianism are thickening in Nigeria.”

The coalition urged the Army to immediately lift its siege to AAH’s offices, apologise for the provocative actions and hold those responsible for the invasion accountable.

“The Nigerian government must release Omoyele Sowore and all those arrested in connection with the public protests he was leading.

“Criminalising civil society actors who campaign for good governance is undemocratic and vindictive, and serves no useful public purpose,” the coalition added.

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