Nigeria: Malami Can't Defend Buhari's Past but Justifies Detaining Sowore

27 September 2019

The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, struck a defiant tone when he was quizzed on why the government of President Muhammad Buhari chose to detain Sahara Reporter publisher, Omoyele Sowore, for calling for a similar action that Mr Buhari had carried out in the past.

Mr Malami had his hands full when he fielded questions on a "Focus on Africa" BBC interview obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

"We have at hand a situation whereby someone that contested election and lost and is eventually calling on revolution and change of government through means other (than what) the constitution recognizes. And to our (the government's) mind, that constitutes a treasonable felony," Mr Malami said.

His interviewer, Peter Okwoche, then questioned the morality of President Muhammadu Buhari, who in his first coming as Head of State toppled a democratically elected government of Late Shehu Shagari in a coup in 1983 and in 2011 called for protests akin to those that took place in Egypt. He asked what justification a government led by a man like Mr Buhari had for detaining Mr Sowore who only called for a revolution.

At first, Mr Malami flinched with his eyes closed before he carefully maintained that he could only talk about Mr Sowore's case, suggesting that he could not respond to or justify his principal's past.

Mr Okwoche pressed on. He cited one of the charges levelled against Mr Sowore, which is "insulting the president", demanding what the government's intent was to have made such accusation in a democratic dispensation.

"As far as I'm concerned," came Mr Malami's response, "treason is treason. If there is a case for treason, you have, as a matter of obligation and right, to present a case before the government.

"What we have done is to present our case before the judiciary which enjoys independence and freedom to determine one thing or the other.

"Not that we have taken the laws in our hand by adjudging him guilty but by presenting him before judicial process so that he could be accorded the opportunity to present a counter case," Mr Malami said.

The interviewer also raised instances of human rights violations by the current government including the mass murder of Shiites, and the detention of journalist Jones Abiri and Abah Jalingo.

Mr Malami justified these instances by suggesting that they probable plotted to change the government without the constitutionally recognised means, election.

The interview was held before Mr Sowore was granted bail on Tuesday by a high court. However, despite Mr Malami's claim of respecting the judicial process, the government has refused to release the activist.

Mr Sowore, charged with a seven-count charge, including treasonable felony for planning a #RevolutionNow protest, was granted bail after spending over 45 days in SSS detention. However, he has continued to be held despite meeting the bail term as certified by the court..

Some civic groups , lawyers and joint body of academic have called on the government to drop the charges against Sowore.

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