Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has accused the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of tagging anyone who criticises its actions and policies a terrorist.
The senior advocate of Nigeria said the current administration has developed the culture of using the terrorism prevention (amendment) act to clamp down on anyone or group with opposing views.
Falana said this while reacting to the arrest of Omoyele Sowore, convener of the ‘RevolutionNow’ movement, by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Sowore, a former presidential candidate, was arrested after spearheading the movement which is calling for nationwide protest against “bad governance” in Nigeria.
The police accused the movement of treason and terorrism, and said they were plotting a “regime change”.
But in a statement, Falana said the movement or Sowore did not contravene the terrorism act in any way.
“However, it is worrisome that the Buhari administration has decided to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations that are crititical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation,” he said.
“Thus, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was proscribed as a terrorist body in 2017 for agitating for the secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria while the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) was proscribed last week for organising rallies to compel the federal government to comply with a court order by releasing the Shia leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife from custody.
“If this trend of accusing every person of engaging in terrorist activities or treasonable felony for criticising the Buhari administration continues the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service will soon turn Nigeria into a country of terrorists.”
The senior lawyer said it is high time the federal government restrained the security agencies from “further exposing Nigeria to ridicule in the comity of civilized nations.”
He said the police have capitalized on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protests, wondering why it did not extend the same gesture to leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) “for claiming to have carried out Ngeria’s democratic revolution which terminated the 16-year rule of the PDP in 2015?”
“Did all Nigerian senators led by APC members not commit treason or terrorism when they spent one and a half hours on May 14, 2019 to debate Senator Chukwuka Utazi’s timely motion on “Bridging the gap between the haves and have-not to nip in the bud the seeds of a looming violent revolution?” he asked.
“The State Security Service should release Mr. Omoyele Sowore, one of the conveners of the protests. In the alternative, he should be arraigned in court if there is reasonable suspicion that he has contravened any penal statute.
“However, the nation’s security agencies should stop embarrassing President Buhari who had cause, from 2003-2014, to lead peaceful rallies to protest election malpractice and insecurity in the country.”