The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) received with great grief the latest dimension of the slide of Nigeria into totalitarianism and dictatorship in the governance of Nigeria, manifested in the attack on Human Rights Activists who had peacefully assembled to deliver a letter to the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission in Abuja, on Monday 23rd December, 2019.
We feel the pain of the injuries inflicted on our fellow Nigerian Human Rights Activists, for no other reason than the expression of their views.
This unwarranted and horrendous brutalization is ascribed to misguided youths who claim to be acting under the banner of a so-called Leadership and Development Organization.
This attack comes at a time when several governors, who some months ago begged for votes from the electorate, have become tyrants who charge critics for treason; a phenomenon being witnessed virtually in all parts of Nigeria.
This dangerous dimension rears its despicable head at a time when the proponents of the Hate Speech Bill appear clearly to be losing the arguments for its justification in the public realm.
It would be recalled, that this obviously hired motley crowd, had organized a demonstration some weeks ago against Mr. Femi Falana (S.A.N) who they claimed needed to put a stop to what they called Mr. Falana’s harassment of the Department of State Security and the Nigerian Army. This same crowd, was reported to have also organized demonstrations against Omoleye Sowore on the last date his case came up at the Federal High Court, in Abuja. Not much attention was paid by the discerning public to this shameless incident of obviously state organized demonstrations against a citizen who had been charged to Court for an offence of which he is presumed innocent. What beclouded this sad development was the re-arrest inside the Court room of the same person by the DSS a few hours after the pretence of complying with a Court order, and now, this violent prevention of Human Rights Activists from submitting a letter to an agency of the Federal Government charged with upholding and propagating human rights.
We ask, can the DSS and the Police claim to be caught unawares by the activities of these placard carrying so-called hoodlums? With the film footages now readily available on these perpetrators of violence against the peaceable expression of constitutionally protected views, have these characters now identifiable not committed offences under the law of the land, for which they ought to be arrested and charged? Has the time not come for a full scale investigation into the activities of a group such as this?
It will be recalled that Charles Oputa alias Charlie Boy had a few years ago been almost beaten to death by an unidentified group for demanding for the return of Mr. President from a prolonged foreign trip for treatment. It would also be recalled that a few weeks ago, civil society groups in Edo State engaged in demonstrations to demand answers over the state of the Government owned Specialist Hospital, they were violently dispersed by thugs alleged to have been hired by the Edo State Government.
Can the Police and the DSS afford to be indifferent to the introduction of violence by some citizens as the mode for stifling the enjoyment of human rights by fellow citizens?
We call on Mr. President to speak publicly on this sad development; specifically to condemn the attack on Human Rights Activists by those who claim to be his supporters. From the slogans they were chanting, they have given the impression to the whole world, that Mr. President approves of their conduct. Mr. President certainly cannot be indifferent as this is not an incident over which silence can be golden.
The CDHR is grieved by this horrendous development but we remain undaunted.
Violence perpetrated under military dictatorship of yesteryears could not change our opinion; surrogates of civilian dictators will fail too!.
Forward to a Nigerian where Human Rights Rule.
Dr. Osagie Obayuwana
Committee for the Defence of Human Right (CDHR