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Why There Is No Basis To Label Omoyele Sowore Terrorist – Jiti Ogunye

Jiti Ogunye, one of the counsels to Omoyele Sowore, shares his thoughts on an attempt to link Sowore to terrorism. Excerpt…

Human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, is one of the counsels to Omoyele Sowore / Photo credit: Ogunye
Human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, is one of the counsels to Omoyele Sowore / Photo credit: Ogunye

A Federal High Court granted the State Security Service an ex parte order to detain Omoyele Sowore the Publisher of Sahara Reporters and organiser of #RevolutionNow protest, for another 45 days. What does the law say about this?

I won’t be able to answer you directly because by association, Mr. Falana, SAN, has talked to me and I have agreed; I am part of Sowore’s legal team.

The process that has been filed in court has my name as member of the legal team.

Professionally and ethically, it is not expected that if you have a case in court, to go to the media to discuss the merits and demerits of the matter.

Being a matter of public interest, however, you can say things generally but you are not allowed to discuss the legal merits or demerits of the case.

So you can ask questions generally but not specifically on what the law says or what the law does not say on the matter before the court.

Organising protest are not revolutionary measures. It is not a measure to overthrow a government has being recklessly alleged

Are there grounds to link Sowore to terrorism because he planned to lead a protest tagged #RevolutionNow?

Of course no. You can’t be talking about Sowore as a terrorist.

This is because doing so, it means that term is being used broadly, loosely and so mischievously as to make everybody in the country look like a terrorist.

That would not be reasonable. That is not the objective of that law. That was not the intention of the framers of that law.

Particularly, when we live in a country where arms bearing persons who are terrorising, killing and kidnapping our citizens are being engaged by states in discussion in a bid to persuade them not to carry out their nefarious acts anymore and granting them amnesty.

Of interest is what is going on in Zamfara State now. The state is discussing with bandits and assuring them that there would be no sanctions for what they have done.

So in this kind of society, when you see security agencies of the state labelling those who are exercising their rights granted by section 39 of the constitution and article 19 of the United Nations declaration of human right and right to freedom of assembly and association as granted by section 14 of our constitution as terrorist, you cannot but worry. It is so reckless.

They said Sowore was oratorically violent; he was saying he would start a revolution, he said he would send the president out of Aso Rock, he said the DSS would longer exist and all that. They said Sowore was verbally violent, right? Ok, what do we call what the DSS and police have done when they accused Sowore and others of terrorism and treason when there are no factual bases for such?

The answer to your question is clear.

There is no basis to label him a terrorist. It is instructive that he was arrested before August 5, the protest day.

Therefore, he never participated in the protest which was suppressed by security agencies across the country. He didn’t participate in the protest.

There is no basis to label him a terrorist. It is instructive that he was arrested before August 5, the protest day. Therefore, he never participated in the protest which was suppressed by security agencies across the country. He didn’t participate in the protest

We saw how the #RevolutionNow protesters were beaten by security officers. What does this say about our democracy?

It shows an increasing authoritarian intolerance. The right for freedom of speech and expression, and respect for fundamental human rights, civil liberty and the rule of law are inextricable components of democracy.

We cannot be talking of democracy without respect for human rights and rule of law. So opposing views must be tolerated.

If there are there infractions of the law, those who do must be brought to justice. However, organising protest are not revolutionary measures.

It is not a measure to overthrow a government has being recklessly alleged. More so, while this is going on, an organisation that Nigerian civil society has collaborated with in the past – collaboration that led to the termination of military rule in Nigeria in 1999 – is now being hounded in the country.

I am referencing the siege that is being laid on Amnesty International repeatedly by those who claimed they were protesting.

The question now is, those who are protesting that Amnesty International must be expelled from Nigeria, where do they get their protest permit from?

This is for those who are saying that RevolutionNow Protesters should have obtained a protest permit even when the court has ruled that you don’t need a permit to carry out a protest.

We have not been told that those people who protested against Amnesty International obtained a police permit and we have not seen police interfering in the protest, counselling them not to there, counselling them that what they are doing has implications on our imagine in the international community.
Government is allowing that. For them that is acceptable but to organize a protest all over the country to place demand on the administration is not.

The question now is, those who are protesting that Amnesty International must be expelled from Nigeria, where do they get their protest permit from? This is for those who are saying that RevolutionNow Protesters should have obtained a protest permit even when the court has ruled that you don’t need a permit to carry out a protest

Some have said that suppressing the protest was government being proactive. Isn’t that a valid point?

Proactive about what? Those who took part in coups and counter coups in Nigeria – we know them all – can never tell you that all the successful coups were made possible by protests on the streets or by incendiary statements.

They were made possible by weapons of war. So nobody can sell the narrative to us that what was said can set the country on fire.

That is why I have said before now that words alone do not bring about revolution. Actions do. So for me, emphasis being placed on what Sowore said or did not say is either here nor there.

If you look at the protest, particularly in Lagos, the police came there and surrounded them. The police could have just left them to sing, sloganeer and chant and let the protest end there.

But they wanted to show that they have power and the state is behind them and they started misbehaving. Suppressing the protest was unwarranted because the protesters were not spreading.

Have you spoken with Sowore since he was arrested and detained?

No. But our lead counsel, Femi Falana, has been speaking with him.

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