Charges against Sowore, mockery of justice system –SERAP

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Anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to enter a nolle prosequi to terminate the charges filed against the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, alias Mandate.

In an open letter on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said the charges which centre on insulting President Muhammadu Buhari would only make a mockery of the Nigerian criminal justice system.

SERAP advised Malami to activate his power of nolle prosequi under Section 174 of the constitution to terminate the charges against Sowore and Mandate “and several other similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.”

SERAP said, “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.

“These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As a guardian of the public interest, you (Malami) have a role to end this travesty now, and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.

“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of judiciary. This will be bad for everyone – ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”

SERAP said while the Federal Government had the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.

Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Solomon Okedara, described Section 24(1) of the Cybercrime Act under which Sowore was charged with insulting the President as “repressive, oppressive and largely unconstitutional.”

Okedara said, “In fact, I am of the opinion that proceeding with such a charge particularly when the person allegedly insulted is the President will rather paint the image of the President and the country in bad light before the comity of nations.

“This is aside the fact that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act does not meet the requirement of permissible restriction to freedom of expression. Having worked on the Cybercrime Act and indeed Section 24 both as a practitioner and researcher, it is clear that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act is indeed an insult to our hard-earned democracy and same does not deserve a place in our laws.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be embarrassed Malami against Sowore.

Adeniran, who described the charges against Sowore as trumped-up and face-saving, argued that it was obvious that government had no grounds to continue to hold Sowore.

The CACOL chairman said this in a Facebook post on Sunday.

He said, “FG has no good reason to hold Sowore anymore; the trumped-up charges are (a) face-saving strategy with no substance!

“President Buhari, please don’t allow Malami to embarrass you any further. Order Sowore’s immediate release and damn it!”

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