United States (US) Senator Robert Menendez representing New Jersey and a Member of US Congress Josh Gottheimer have written the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Sylvanus Adiewere Nsofor concerning the continued detention of Omoyele Sowore, Convener of #RevolutionNow protest.
In the letter, they expressed their concerns about the Nigerian government attempting to silence the press, in a democracy-practising nation.
They are appalled at the disobedience of the Department of State Services (DSS) to court orders which has refused to release Sowore despite the court granting him freedom.
Read the copy of the letter;
Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
November 25, 2019
Ambassador Sylvianus Adiewere Nsofor
Head of Mission
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, N.W.
Washington DC. 20008
Dear Ambassador Nsofor,
We write to express strong concern about closing media and Civic space in Nigeria. There have been a number of troubling reports about Nigeria security services assaulting and detaining journalists using excessive force on non-violent protesters and taking other actions that inhibit freedom of expression and otherwise prevent Nigerians from fully exercising their constitutional rights.
Journalists and activists such as Omoyele Sowore, Jones Abiri, Kofi Bartels, Samuel Ogundipe, and others investigating and speaking-out politically sensitive problems like corruption or insecurity have been harassed and detained, with reports that some have been tortured.
In at least one instance, the Department of Security Services has ignored a court order to release a detained activist. Restrictions and deadly crackdowns on non-violent protesters since 2015 have similarly reflected a lack of apparent commitment to civic freedoms which is beginning to negatively impact the image of Nigeria’s government, both home and abroad.
Security forces used live ammunition on Shiite protestors in Zaria, Kaduna State in 2015; on protestors in Onitsha, Anambra State in 2016, again on a Shiite procession in Abuja in 2018, raided the office of Daily Trust, and arrested the editor in January, 2019, and shot and killed Precious Owolabi, a journalist covering a July 2019 protest in Abuja.
The crackdowns have collectively killed hundreds of Nigerian citizens and serve as a troubling demonstration of the excessive force used by the military. The alleged perpetrators of these abuses have yet to be brought to justice.
Mr Ambassador, Nigeria has a critical role to play in preserving peace and stability in West Africa, and as the most popular democracy in the continent, it could serve as a shining example of how countries can best observe the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. However, failure to failure to respect the rights in the Charter and those in Nigeria’s own constitution undermine your nation’s ability to lead in this area.
We urge you to ensure that the rights and liberties contained in the constitution are observed for all citizens, and to take strong action against further closing space for journalists, political opposition, and those in civil society.
The rights of all citizens must be respected without the threat of government reprisal. We look forward to seeing progress on this critically important issue. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
United States Senator
Member of Congress