The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has sent an open letter to Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abukabar Malami, asking him to use his position to discontinue the lawsuit against pro-democracy activist and publisher of SahareReporters, Omoyele Sowore.
The Nigerian Government had charged Sowore with treason, cyberbullying and money laundering following the expiration of the 45 days granted by the court for the Department of State Services to investigate those allegations.
SERAP said, “Without delay, enter a nolle prosequi and discontinue the prosecution of the Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ movement and Publisher of SaharaReporters, Mr Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, also known as Mandate for apparently politically motivated charges of treason, fraud and ‘insulting President Muhammadu Buhari’.”
SERAP urged Malami to use his role as a trustee of the public interest under section 174 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended) to end several of similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.
In the letter dated September 21, 2019, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group added, “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.
"These cases are persecution and not prosecution.
"As guardian of the public interest, you have a role to end this travesty now and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.
“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of judiciary.
"This will be bad for everyone - ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power.
“While the Nigerian Government has the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.
"Exercising your constitutional independence and discretion to withdraw these kinds of charges would meet the text of reasonableness, demands of justice, and as noted, serve public interest.
“Laws against terrorism and money laundering should be properly used, and not to undermine critical voices, activists, and the media.
"Invoking the charges of treasonable felony to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression would minimise the seriousness with which our laws traditionally treat such offences, and undermine the essence of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.
“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to withdraw the charges against Sowore and Bakare, and several other similar charges instigated or brought by state governors across the county."