Edo Pro-Democracy Groups have flayed the harassment of Comrade Taiwo Akereke, former Chief of Staff (CoS) to the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, threatening to sue the governor if the state-sponsored harassment continues.
The coalition of several pro-democracy groups operating in Edo State and committed to the pursuit of the principles of democracy, accountability, openness and responsible leadership in government served this notice at a press conference in Benin attended by selected number of journalists.
Led by Marxist Kola Edokpayi and Barrister Felix Isere, the coalition said it received news of the resignation of Comrade Akerele from the government of Mr. Godwin Obaseki on Friday, 24th April, 2020.
The Coalition, according to them, “reviewed the reasons adduced for the said resignation which was based on principle relating to the governance and administration of Edo State.”
They said the coalition commended Comrade Akerele for “his doggedness and commitment to the struggle for a just and egalitarian society and for not betraying the dictates of his conscience while in government and especially his courage for resigning his position as Chief of Staff when he felt unable to discharge his responsibilities as he envisaged.”
They listed other positions taken by the coalition to include the following:
“The Coalition notes the fact that Nigerian office holders often lack the courage to resign from public office even when their roles are in conflict with their principles.
“The Coalition, as defenders of the rights of the oppressed in society is however saddened by the gestapo manner the Governor of Edo State deployed his personal Department of State Security and Police aides attached to Edo State government house to conduct an illegal search of the residence of Comrade Akerele without a search warrant and any letter of authorization from neither the Headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS) or the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
“It is therefore clear to all and sundry that the said security personnel acting in cahoots with Edo State government house thugs were on an illegal operation on the orders of Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
“During the illegal search, several personal documents including his children’s certificates were carted away and his Personal Assistant, Mr. Jasper Olowojoba was harassed.
“This incident highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders and others in Edo State to exercise their freedom of expression.
“These violations are inconsistent with Nigeria’s international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and other International human rights charters to which Nigeria is a signatory.
“These include obligations to respect and protect citizen’s fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. These fundamental freedoms are also guaranteed in Nigeria’s Constitution.
“These acts are designed to break Comrade Akerele’s spirit, impugn on his reputation, embarrass and ridicule him and possibly frame him up for obeying the dictates of his conscience.
“The Coalition calls on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Amnesty International, the European Union, the American government and all international human rights organizations to call Mr. Obaseki to order and to advice him to allow all stakeholders to hold and express independent opinions in his state.
“The Coalition recalls the sacrifices of members of the National Democratic (NADECO) and other pro democracy groups in birthing our current democracy and would not fold its arms and allow certain political leaders truncate our march to true democracy and freedom.
“We demand an end to the harassment and intimidation of Comrade Francis Taiwo Akerele.
“No matter the level of intimidation, the truth remains that the Obaseki administration has the duty to protect the lives and property of Edo people.
“The Coalition hereby notifies the Edo State Governor that should the harassment and intimation of Comrade Akerele continue, we would be left with no option than to take legal actions to challenge the legality of any further government’s illegal actions as it relates to our comrade.
“We shall also be sending a strong-worded petition to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and International human Rights bodies.”