Enough Of The Harassment Of SERAP And Other NGOs; Group Tells Lai Muhammed
Some civil society organizations (CSOs) have asked the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed to desist from harassing the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country.
In a statement jointly signed by Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director Enough is Enough (EiE), Kolawole Oluwadare of SERAP, Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director Paradigm Initiative (PIN), and Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the CSOs said the minister has been attacking SERAP and other NGOs.
According to them, the minister made an unfounded and false statement that some NGOs “are working to destabilize Nigeria” and went ahead to attack CSOs that exercised their constitutional right to challenge the Federal Government in court over the indefinite suspension on Twitter in the country.
“Nothing could be further from the truth than the minister’s wild claims and allegations. We reject the allegation that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other NGOs that sued the Nigerian government are working to destabilize Nigeria or against the country’s interest. We condemn the statement as a reckless attempt to incite Nigerians against NGOs and undermine their credibility.
“We wish to state that the opposite is actually true – it is Nigerian NGOs that are striving to save Nigeria from being destabilised in the face of relentless efforts by Mr Mohammed and others like him in the government who are afraid of freedom of expression and other fundamental rights that should be enjoyed by all citizens of a democratic country,” the CSOs said in the statement.
Noting that Mohammed believes that being a minister gives him the authority to be the accuser, judge, and jury, they accused him of tagging anyone who disagrees with him, or criticises him or the government, as an enemy of the state.
“Citizens have a right and indeed a responsibility, either individually or in groups, to criticise their government and to insist that the government respects their fundamental rights and freedoms, within the laws of the land.”
The CSOs noted that the decision of certain groups and journalists to sue the government over the suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria was precisely to vindicate the rights that citizens have to freely express their opinions and an effort to provide relief for thousands, perhaps millions of Nigerians whose sources of income and businesses were affected by the development.
“We remain convinced that the government’s action was illegal and unwarranted. It was further evidence of the commitment of President Buhari’s administration to close civic spaces and clamp down on the rights of citizens,” the CSOs added.
The CSOs challenged the minister to release the list of the NGOs that are working to destabilise Nigeria, and proceed to prosecute them in accordance with the country’s laws.
They insisted that they would continue to support democracy in Nigeria regardless of the reaction of temporary occupiers of various government seats.
Recently, Mohammed had claimed that the Federal Government “was in receipt of reports that some of the NGOs were on the payroll of foreign agents”, describing them as “traducers with ulterior motives to destabilise Nigeria”.