The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has written an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, urging him to use his good office and relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari to convince him to obey court orders and respect the rule of law.
Buhari, who has visited London many times in the last four years, has been known to always visit the archbishop anytime he visits the United Kingdom. However, on Sunday, the President also paid a visit to the cleric.
In light of the visits, SERAP asked Welby to prevail on Buhari to obey court orders most recently involving activists Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare who remain in arbitrary detention despite a court ordering their release.
SERAP also expressed “serious concerns about the disturbing trends by state governments and Federal Government to use the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights.”
In the letter dated November 11, 2019 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “We believe you can use your leadership position and influence to persuade President Buhari to promote the rule of law in words and in action by obeying all court orders including the order for the releasing of Mr Sowore and Mr Bakare from arbitrary detention.”
The group said as the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the cleric should be able to convince the President to respect the Nigerian judiciary.
The letter further read, “Journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari, simply for exercising their human rights. Mr Sowore was arrested on August 3 by Nigeria’s State Security Service for planning a protest.
“Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted Sowore and Bakare bail but the security agents have continued to refuse to release them despite being served with the court orders. This refusal implicitly violates the defendants’ constitutional rights to presumption of innocence.”
Specifically, SERAP asked Most Revd Welby to clearly and publicly condemn lack of respect for the rule of law and court orders in Nigeria; call for the release of Sowore and Bakare from detention as ordered by the court and call for greater legal protections for human rights activists and journalists in Nigeria who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression.
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