The siege laid to the office of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and that of Sahara Reporters in Ikeja, Lagos by the police has continued to generated condemnations from different Civil Society Organisations in the country.
Armed police officers had on Wednesday laid siege to the offices of the two organisations, the move which was believed to be aimed at preventing a protest in the area.
The publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, has been in detention for several weeks for organising a protest against the Federal government.
The government accuses him of terrorism and plotting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari.
Reacting to the development on it Twitter handle, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged Nigerian authorities to immediately lift the siege on the offices of the two organisations, allow freedom of expression and stop the nationwide campaign of arbitrary arrests against journalists, activists and protesters.
In his reaction, the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Center (RULAAC), Okechukwu Nwanguma, stated that the police invasion of the two organisations’ offices was condemnable.
“It’s a shocking evidence that the democracy for which many Nigerians made sacrifices and paid the supreme price has suffered retreat under the Buhari regime.
“Basic freedoms are being curtailed increasingly – from freedom of expression to peaceable assembly to association. Citizens can no longer freely express dissent or criticise people in power.
“Citizen’s gatherings are broken up. These were normal under military rule. But we are supposed to be enjoying the freedom associated with democracy.
“But not under the Buhari regime which is becoming increasingly despotic especially since his second term. Media freedom is under attack. Journalists are arrested, detained and charged with terrorism for publishing critical reports.
“The civic space is getting increasingly constricted. Nigerians must rise up and reclaim their democracy,” he said.
An activist, Olaseni Ajai, who is also a co-convener of the proposed protest in a press statement entitled ‘Police invasion of CDHR and sealing up of Sahara Reporters offices: Darker days ahead,” revealed that the intended peaceful protest borders on the detention of several activists without trial.
According to him, “early this morning, the police and other security forces invaded the national office of the CDHR and Sahara Reporters offices in another desperate attempt to forcefully stop planned peaceful agitation against detention of activists without trial scheduled to start at 11am this morning.
“The CDHR is a human rights organisation and Sahara Reporters is a media agency. That their offices could be invaded and sealed in this Gestapo-like manner this morning in anticipation of protest, only confirms that the civil rights fought for over the years are crudely being removed by Buhari’s APC government.
“The right to speech, associate, protest and even to think are no more guaranteed under this regime.
“However, our agitation for the immediate release of Omoyele Sowore, Agba Jalingo, Abayomi Olawale (Mandate) and all others currently being held in Buhari’s detention centres, and for the revolutionary transformation of the country continues.”
Reacting on the police’s action, the spokesperson of the Lagos Police Command, Bala Elkana, said the deployment of police to the areas was to serve as a protection and ensure that law and order were maintained.
“They are there to provide security and ensure that there is no breach of peace,” he said.