The Presidency on Wednesday has clapped back at the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, urging it to cease its “divisive, irresponsible, and bare-faced publicity stunts”.
This is as it challenged SERAP to follow through on its latest “spurious” legal claim in a Nigerian court of law and to challenge the government publicly, legally and transparently while revealing itself and who funds it.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated this in a piece titled, ‘SERAP should stop the publicity stunt and render own accountability.’
The berating piece is heralded by a series of lawsuits SERAP has filed against President Muhammadu Buhari, on several matters; most prominently a violation of human rights.
The most recent of such lawsuits happened on Friday, November 26, 2021, where the advocacy group filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to “direct and compel President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate steps to ensure the arrest of soldiers and police officers indicted by the Lagos #EndSARS panel report for the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate, and police brutality cases.”
In its response, the Presidency said, “We would like to address the repeated ridiculous claims from the so-called Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project that it is bringing legal action against the Government and/or President of Nigeria.
“To date, SERAP has announced on repeated occasions–each time via a well-funded media campaign – that it is suing the government or President over a range of issues from alleged human rights abuses to alleged corruption. To date, SERAP has not taken their retinue of legal actions to a logical conclusion. They don’t follow through.
“Yet these headline-grabbing publicity stunts, however baseless, succeed in painting an inaccurate picture of life and governance in Nigeria and – more seriously – in sowing division amongst the Nigerian people during a time of heightened global economic volatility and hardship.”
Shehu said Nigeria’s record as “Africa’s leading democracy” and largest economy speaks for itself. Nigeria is amongst the top five countries in Africa for quality of life, and our ranking in the Human Development Index has steadily risen for a decade.
This success, he maintained, is a testament to the rights, rule of law and strong, independent institutions enjoyed by all Nigerian citizens and others who live there.
He continued, “Indeed, it is a fact that independent, non-governmental organisations can thrive there – especially those that seek accountability from government.
“Put simply, here lies SERAP’s paradox: in a country without human rights, no rule of law, limited freedom of expression, and weak democratic institutions the cases and cacophony that SERAP causes – even the organisation itself – simply would not be permitted.”
According to Shehu, it is, unfortunately, the case that Nigeria’s progressive, modern, and liberal legal system is open to manipulation by cynical actors who seek nothing but to sow division amongst Nigerians and secure publicity for themselves.
He said with the global pandemic exacerbating poverty across the continent, those who have always sought to divide Nigerians along cultural, racial and political lines for political or financial gain are more dangerous than before.
The Presidency, therefore, called on SERAP to cease “its divisive, irresponsible, and bare-faced publicity stunts and instead to follow through on its latest spurious legal claim in a Nigerian court of law.
“Let them challenge the government publicly, legally and transparently. And while they do so, let them reveal in full view of the nation who they are, and who is funding them.”
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