A Lagos-based human rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) today, Monday 11, called on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Portal Welby, to prevail on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, to obey orders as made by courts in the country.
The group particularly urged the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Portal Welby in an open letter, to use his good offices and leadership and his “friendship with President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on him to obey court orders most recently involving activists Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare who remain in arbitrary detention despite a court order for their release.”
The human rights group also expressed “serious concerns about the disturbing trends by state governments and the federal government to use the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights.”
SERAP in an open letter dated November 11, 2019 and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “We believe you can use your leadership position and influence to persuade President Buhari to promote the rule of law in words and in action by obeying all court orders including the order for the release of Mr. Sowore and Mr. Bakare from arbitrary detention.
“As the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, we believe you can reaffirm your belief in justice, rule of law and the basic human rights of all people by speaking out with a strong voice against the repeated disobedience of court orders and the implicitly lack of respect by the government for the integrity and authority of the Nigerian judiciary.
“Taking a stance on the issues of the rule of law and respect for court orders in Nigeria will also contribute to ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law by the 36 state governments in Nigeria, as these governments seem to be taking their cue from the federal authorities regarding disobedience of court orders.
“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.
“Mr. Sowore was arrested on August 3 by Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) for planning a protest.
“Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted Sowore and Bakare bail but the security agents have continued to refuse to release them despite being served with the court orders.
“This refusal implicitly violates the defendants’ constitutional rights to presumption of innocence.
“We therefore respectfully call on you to speak out on the repeated disobedience of court orders by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and urge him to obey all court orders including the orders for the release of Mr. Sowore and Mr Bakare from arbitrary detention.”
In particular terms, the group is asking Most Revd Justin Portal Welby for the following:
- Clearly and publicly condemn lack of respect for the rule of law and court orders in Nigeria.
- Call for the release of Mr. Sowore and Mr. Bakare from detention as ordered by the court.
- Call for greater legal protections for human rights activists and journalists in Nigeria who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression and working to hold their leaders to account.