The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has condemned the Nigerian Government for comparing Omoyele Sowore to a Boko Haram terrorist in defense of his rearrest by operatives of the Department of State Services.
The DSS had stormed the Federal High Court, Abuja, to arrest Sowore but the act was temporarily met with resistance by Sowore's supporters leading to the closure of the court activities.
Sowore was subsequently arrested and is being detained at the headquarters of the DSS.
Backing the rearrest of Sowore despite a court order granting him bail, Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, in a statement, said Sowore's act is similar to the Boko Haram group that had killed thousands of Nigerians.
He said, "Nigeria is already dealing with an insurgency that has left millions of people displaced and desperate in the North-Eastern region of our country.
"The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.
"Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’."
Reacting to the statement by Shehu, SERAP said it unacceptable to compare citizens exercising their human rights with militants killing people and destroying property.
SERAP also said that the government was only trying to discourage Nigerians from criticising the President Buhari-led administration.
SERAP said, "We condemn the statement today by @NigeriaGov issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Muhammadu Buhari. To be absolutely clear, Sowore and Bakare are not terrorists.
"It’s unacceptable to compare citizens who are also activists simply exercising their human rights including freedom of expression with militants killing our people and destroying property.
"Freedom of expression is not yet a crime under the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended).
"What is happening to Sowore and Bakare shows clear attempts by the Nigerian authorities to further silence critics, activists and the media while they continue to undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
"This is illustrated through a persistent disobedience of court orders, and as we witnessed last week, the invasion of Justice Ojukwu’s court by the DSS."
SERAP also noted that the persecution of Sowore and Bakare is sending a chilling and unambiguous message to all Nigerians, and is part of a systematic effort to silence independent media and critical voices in Nigeria to prevent public scrutiny of governments at both the Federal and state levels.
It added that the government must act in line with the constitution by not only protecting the people but also complying with the rule of law in the country.
It added, "Nigerian authorities now need to begin to protect citizens’ human rights and the rule of law.
"That should start with the immediate withdrawal of the bogus charges against Sowore and Bakare and the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore from arbitrary detention.
"We are concerned that Nigerian authorities continue to openly scorn the Nigerian constitution and the country’s human rights commitments.
"This concerted attack on the rule of law must stop."