By Emmanuel Afonne
The Coalition of Public Interests Lawyers and Advocates (COPA) and the United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP) have faulted the arrest and detention of Mr Omoyele Sowore.
The groups, in separate statements issued on Monday in Abuja, described the detention of Sowore, the founder of SaharaReporters Group and Convener of the #RevolutionNow Movement, as needless and ill-advised.
The Convener of COPA, Pelumi Olajengbesi, said the group had the right to congregate, protest and express their reservations about the Federal Government policies or its leadership direction.
“The objectives and the much publicised move by the group to protest via an organised peaceful march against state policies is a democratically recognised means of engagement with any elected government.
“The arrest of Sowore in the late hours of the night as a pre-emptive strike against an unfounded allegation of treason is a farcical move and one that ridicules the government and the security arm that carried out the arrest.
“COPA is shocked and disheartened over such a brazen attack on free speech and right to peaceful assembly.
“In fact, the arrest and continued detention of Sowore is an exhibition of brute force, a clampdown on constitutional liberty and a gradual descent into anarchy.
“It is way too soon to relive all over again the signature moves of military dictatorship; no country should ever have political thoughts and speeches policed by the state,” he said.
Olajengbesi said that COPA viewed the excuse given by the Federal Government over Sowore’s arrest as an insult to public intelligence and sensibility.
“The legal definition of treason is not dictated to by executive whims but by clearly laid down laws and state conventions.
“The arrest of Mr Sowore was reactionary and badly advised, thus leading to the flimsy premise given for it,” Olajengbesi said.
He urged the government to see revolution as changing of status quo, maintaining that organising a protest for revolution was never a call for anarchy but a demand for genuine change.
Also, Shalom Olaseni, Executive Director, UGRFP, said no society would truly be free if thoughts were regulated by their conformity or variance with government position.
Olaseni said that in as much as his group was not holding brief for any political movement or allowing political colorations to taint its positions on national issues, it was necessary for the rule of law to be respected.
According to him, all the agitations by aggrieved sympathisers or members of Sowore‘s #RevolutionNow movement must be tempered with common sense and accorded with disciplined action.
He said that dialogue, rather than violent action, was the modern world’s tool for reconciliation and the achievement of set goals.
“We are properly apprised of insinuations that the #RevolutionNow movement is unconstitutional and perhaps, treasonable. Let it be stated that such a claim is a tall one that cannot be addressed without tact.
“The #RevolutionNow movement ought to be properly monitored until it becomes clear and unimpeachable that an attempt to create an alternative government or encourage a coup against the government is suspected. These are the elements of treason.
“We will like to caution the conveners and participants of such movement that such gatherings must not have a militant posturing that will draw security concerns or stoke civil unrest.
“All rights are only as absolute as they exist within the parameters of the law. It is our hope that this matter will be resolved as amicably as the circumstance permits,” Olaseni said.
He said that the group would continue to follow unfolding events with the aim of intervening, where necessary and possible in the interest of peace and order.