Policemen and soldiers on Monday dispersed members of the #RevolutionNow movement who converged at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
The protest was called by Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February 2019 General Elections, and publisher of the online medium, Sahara Reporters.
Sowore, who was arrested on Saturday by operatives of the Department of State Services at his home and moved to Abuja, described the move as a protest against bad governance in the country.
The DSS had said that Sowore was arrested “for threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country.”
The protesters arrived at the Lagos stadium around 7 a.m. on Monday, for the kick-off of the protest met a detachment of policemen at the entrance of the stadium.
The protesters, however, started chanting calling for the release of Omoyele Sowore
However, two human rights lawyers and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Mike Ozekhome and Femi Falana have condemned the treasonable charged leveled against Sowore, accusing the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of not being tolerant to criticism.
Ozekhome, who appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, said the current government is “allergic to plurality of voices and criticism.”
He said: “Dancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance how does that amount to treason, unreasonable felony?
“This government is allergic to plurality of voices, this government is allergic to criticism, this government is allergic to opinions. This government should know that Nigeria is a country with many colours.
“You cannot sample opinions. We cannot all sleep on the same bed. This government should learn to be tolerant,” he said.
Following Sowore’s arrest, the Nigeria Police described the planned protests by some individuals as ‘treasonable felony and acts of terrorism’, vowing resist any act that can lead to a breach of law and order in the country.
But reacting to the allegation, Ozekhome disagreed with the government and security agencies, describing “That allegation is most puerile, most damning and most illogical from the government or security spokespersons.
“What is treason? For the definition of treason, you have to look at Sections 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 of the Criminal Code which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria.
“Then you must look at Section 410 of the Penal Code that applies in the Northern part of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Treason is the act of overthrowing the sovereign government of a state,” he stated.
Earlier, a foremost Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, had condemned the arrest, calling on the Federal Government to call the security agencies to order.
Falana said Sunday that protest marches were not treasonable offences in Nigeria.
Falana, who was also reacting to Sowore’s arrest, said: ”The satanic Boko Haram sect was officially banned in Nigeria by the federal government and declared a terrorist network in June 2013. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has since successfully prosecuted many of the members of the sect for sundry offences under the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act.
”The Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, has also investigated and indicted the leaders of the sect for committing crimes against humanity.
”Having regards to the brutal killing, rape, abduction and bombing of innocent people in the north east, Nigerian people are fully in support of the proscription of the dreaded sect and the counter-insurgency operations being carried out by the armed forces.
”However, it is worrisome that the Buhari administration has decided to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations that are critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation.
”Thus, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was proscribed as a terrorist body in 2017 for agitating for the excision of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria, while the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, was proscribed last week for organising rallies to compel the federal government to comply with a court order by releasing the Shia leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife from custody.
”Sunday, the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force threatened to prosecute the organisers of the peaceful rallies scheduled to hold in Nigeria on Monday, August 5, 2019, for terrorism and treason to press for a change in the poverty induced agenda of the federal government. ”If this trend of accusing every person of engaging in terrorist activities or treasonable felony for criticising the Buhari administration continues, the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service will soon turn Nigeria into a country of terrorists.
”To stop the dangerous trend, it is high time the federal government restrained the security agencies from further exposing Nigeria to ridicule in the comity of civilized nations.
”Indeed, by virtue of section 37 of the Criminal Code Act, any person who levies war against the state, in order to intimidate or overawe the President or the governor of a state, is guilty of treason, and is liable to the punishment of death, while section 41 provides that any person who forms an intention to remove the President during his term of office otherwise by constitutional means is guilty of treasonable felony and is liable to be sentenced to life imprisonment.
”The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act has defined an act of terrorism to include any act which is deliberately done with malice, which may seriously damage a country or an organization, or seriously intimidate a population, otherwise influence government by intimidation, destroy public facility, seize an aircraft, ship or other means of public transport likely to endanger human life or in result in major economic loss etc.
”From the above definitions of treason, treasonable felony and terrorism, it is crystal clear that the organisers of the peaceful rallies cannot be said to have planned to engage in acts of terrorism or formed an intention to remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office.
”The intention of the organisers of the rallies to protest the worsening security situation in the country, demand for payment of N30,000 minimum wage to workers and job creation for our army of unemployed youths etc cannot by any stretch of imagination be said to constitute terrorism or treason in any material particular.
”No doubt, the Nigeria Police Force has capitalized on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protests. If revolution has become a criminal offence in Nigeria, why were the leaders of the APC not charged for claiming to have carried out Nigeria’s democratic revolution which terminated the 16-year rule of the PDP in 2015?
”Why was Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party, YPP, not threatened with treason when he asked Nigerians to rise for a revolution via the 2019 general election?
”Did all Nigerian senators, led by APC members not commit treason or terrorism when they spent one and a half hours on May 14, 2019, to debate Senator Chukwuka Utazi’s timely motion on “Bridging the gap between the haves and have-not to nip in the bud the seeds of a looming violent revolution?
”I wish to submit, without any fear of contradiction, that neither the Criminal Code Act nor the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act has classified the demand for revolution in Nigeria as a treasonable offence or terrorist activity.
”The statement credited to the Police is a sad reminder of the jittery reaction of the British colonial invaders to series of lectures organised by the Zikists Movement in 1948 which Comrade Edwin Madunagu has described as a major intervention at a time bourgeois politicians were dividing the country along ethnic lines.
”For demanding revolution via public lectures, the Zikists were charged with sedition, tried, convicted and jailed. In proving the charge, Osita Agwuna was alleged to have said that he was no longer bound by colonial laws and that he had asked Nigerians to stop paying taxes to the British colonial regime.”
This is even as an activist and lecturer in the Political Science Department of Lagos State University, Prof. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, called for the immediate release of the presidential candidate of African Action Congress, AAC, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested by the Department of State Services, DSS, last Saturday for planning a nationwide protest against bad governance in the country.
Calling for Sowore’s release, Prof. Akhaine said: ”My attention has been drawn to the arrest of my compatriot, Omoyele Sowore by men of the Department of State Services in the early hours of yesterday for his intention to associate with fellow suffering Nigerians to make their voice heard on the maladministration of General Mohammadu Buhari administration.
”I join other well-meaning Nigerians to call for his immediate release and condemn the arrest in unequivocal terms. It is not only inhuman, it is undemocratic and dictatorial. Sowore must be released with immediate effect otherwise, the government should be ready to expand its prison walls.
”There is no gainsaying that the Nigerian state has collapsed under the watch of the incumbent administration. Indeed, Nigeria has sunk to all-time low on all governance indices. No nation has been so afflicted with a cluster of warped, anti-development and anti-intellectual elite as the one prevalent in our country today. Those who think that it will be business as usual are only kidding themselves.
”Let it be known that sovereignty belongs to the Nigerian people and that sovereignty is indivisible and those currently holding publics offices in Nigeria are transient temporal occupiers and can be dismissed by the people at any time.
”As things stand today, Nigerians have reached the cross-roads and can no longer tolerate the prevailing incompetence, squandering of the wealth of the nation, poor management of the war against insurgents in the north east and the atmosphere of siege perpetrated by state-minded herdsmen across the country.
”Nigerians should be ready for the defence of their rights. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”