A letter has been written to the Federal Government of Nigeria by New Jersey’s Senator Robert Menedez and Josh Gotheimer, and a member of congress over reports of the country’s security services assaulting and detaining journalists, using excessive force on non-violent protesters and taking other actions that inhibit freedom of expression.
In the letter dated November 25 and addressed to Sylvanus Nsofor who is Nigeria’s ambassador to the US, the US lawmakers expressed strong concern about closing media and civic space in Nigeria which according to them is affecting the image of the West-African country.
They further affirmed that Nigeria should be a shine to other African countries as it plays a critical role in preserving peace and stability in the continent.
“We write to express strong concern about closing media and civic space in Nigeria,” the letter read.
“There have been a number of troubling reports about Nigerian security services assaulting and detaining journalists, using excessive force on non-violent protesters and taking other actions that inhibit freedom of expression, and otherwise prevent Nigerians from fully exercising their fundamental constitutional rights.
“Journalists and activists such as Omoyele Sowore, Jones Abiri, Kofi Bartels, Samuel Ogundipe, and others investigating and speaking-out about politically sensitive problems like corruption or insecurity have been harassed and detained; with reports that some have even been tortured.
“In the least one instance, the Department of Security Services has ignored a court order to release a detained activist. Restrictions and deadly crackdowns on non-violent protests since 2015 have similarly reflected a lack of apparent commitment to civic freedom which is beginning to negatively impact the image of Nigeria’s government, both at home and abroad.
“Failure to respect the rights in the charter and those in the Nigeria’s constitution, the congress said undermines the country’s ability to lead in the area.
“We urge you to ensure that the rights and liberties contained in the constitution are observed for all citizens, and to take strong action against further closing space for journalists, political opposition, and those in civil society.”