Political Science Department of Lagos State University, Prof. Sylvester Akhaine, called for the immediate release of the presidential candidate of African Action Congres, AAC, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested by Department of State Services, DSS, last Saturday for planning a nationwide protest against bad governance in the country.
This is even as Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, said, yesterday, that protest marches were not treasonable offences in Nigeria.
Falana, who was also reacting to Sowore's arrest, said: "The satanic Boko Haram sect was officially banned in Nigeria by the Federal Government and declared a terrorist network in June 2013. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has since successfully prosecuted many of the members of the sect for sundry offences under the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act.
"The Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, has also investigated and indicted the leaders of the sect for committing crimes against humanity.
"Having regards to the brutal killing, rape, abduction and bombing of innocent people in the North-East, Nigerian people are fully in support of the proscription of the dreaded sect and the counter-insurgency operations being carried out by the armed forces.
"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 critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation.
"Thus, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was proscribed as a terrorist body in 2017 for agitating for the excision 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 El-Zakzaky and his wife from custody.
"Yesterday, the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force threatened to prosecute the organisers of the peaceful rallies scheduled to hold in Nigeria on Monday, August 5, 2019, for terrorism and treason to press for a change in the poverty induced agenda of the Federal Government.
"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 Department of State Service will soon turn Nigeria into a country of terrorists.
"To stop the dangerous trend, it is high time the Federal Government restrained the security agencies from further exposing Nigeria to ridicule in the comity of civilised nations.
"Indeed, by virtue of Section 37 of the Criminal Code Act, any person who levies war against the state, in order to intimidate or overawe the President or the governor of a state, is guilty of treason, and is liable to the punishment of death, while section 41 provides that any person who forms an intention to remove the President during his term of office otherwise by constitutional means is guilty of treasonable felony and is liable to be sentenced to life imprisonment.
"The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act has defined an act of terrorism to include any act which is deliberately done with malice, which may seriously damage a country or an organisation, or seriously intimidate a population, otherwise influence government by intimidation, destroy public facility, seize an aircraft, ship or other means of public transport likely to endanger human life or in result in major economic loss etc.
"From the above definitions of treason, treasonable felony and terrorism, it is crystal clear that the organisers of the peaceful rallies cannot be said to have planned to engage in acts of terrorism or formed an intention to remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office.
Akhaine calls for Sowore's release
Meanwhile, calling for Sowore's release, Prof. Akhaine said: "I join other well-meaning Nigerians to call for his immediate release and condemn the arrest in unequivocal terms. It is not only inhuman, it is undemocratic and dictatorial. Sowore must be released with immediate effect otherwise, the government should be ready to expand its prison walls.
"There is no gainsaying that the Nigerian state has collapsed under the watch of the incumbent administration. Indeed, Nigeria has sunk to all-time low on all governance indices. No nation has been so afflicted with a cluster of warped, anti-development and anti-intellectual elite as the one prevalent in our country today."
Those who think that it will be business as usual are only kidding themselves.
"Let it be known that sovereignty belongs to the Nigerian people and that sovereignty is indivisible and those currently holding publics offices in Nigeria are transient temporal occupiers and can be dismissed by the people at any time.
"As things stand today, Nigerians have reached the cross-roads and can no longer tolerate the prevailing incompetence, squandering of the wealth of the nation, poor management of the war against insurgents in the north east and the atmosphere of siege perpetrated by state-minded herdsmen across the country.
"Nigerians should be ready for the defence of their rights. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."