Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to urgently develop measures and issue directives to all courts to respond to the disturbing trends by state and federal governments to use the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights.
SERAP, a non-governmental organization (NGO), made the request in an open letter dated October 4 2019 and signed by the group Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.
The group said: “Across the country, state governors and federal government are charging citizens, mostly journalists, bloggers and activists, with serious crimes such as ‘treason’, ‘treasonable felony’ or bogus crime of ‘insulting public officials’, simply for exercising their human rights.
“These charges, refusal of bail and granting of bail on stringent conditions seem to be dangerous manipulation of judicial authority and functions by high-ranking politicians, something which the NJC and the judiciary under your watch should resist.”
“In the climate of a growing clampdown on human rights of journalists and activists by several state governments and federal government, the NJC ought to push back and act as protector of individuals’ rights against abuses by the authorities. We believe that the courts, not the state government or federal government, should have the final say in matters of citizens’ human rights.
“The NJC should ensure that when the authorities disobey court orders and suppress human rights, they are not allowed to come to the court and seek reliefs until they purge their contempt. Otherwise, the justice system and the Nigerian constitution become a solemn mockery.
“If the practice by state governments and federal government is allowed to continue, the courts will be relegated to desuetude, and will lead to arbitrary and unrestricted power as well as further suppression of citizens’ human rights.
“It is essential for the NJC to issue directives to all courts to promptly consider on the face of the papers filed by the authorities whether the charges brought against journalists, bloggers and activists are truly based on facts or fabricated to secure indefinite detention of citizens with judicial authority.