A pro-democracy group, Take It Back Movement (TIB) has called for an immediate end to the restriction of movement imposed on Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC).
A Federal High Court in Abuja had, in 2019, restricted Sowore’s movement to Abuja as part of the bail conditions granted him in his trial on charges of treasonable felony. It follows the charges filed against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office after the State Security Service (SSS) arrested him for calling for a nationwide #RevolutionNow protest against President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in August 2019.
However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja in April 2022 lifted the movement restriction and declared that the restriction of his movement to Abuja was excessive but merely cleared him to travel outside Abuja, and not beyond the Nigerian territory.
In a statement on Friday, the human rights and pro-democracy group, described the movement restriction imposed by a High Court on Omoyele Sowore, as unjust.
Speaking through its Director of Media and Communications, Chidi Nwanyanwu, TIB said that despite the order, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the rest of the presidential candidates in the race would have an unfair advantage over Sowore.
The movement, therefore, urged Nigerians and the international community to prevail on the Buhari government to ensure that the restriction was lifted completely on the AAC presidential candidate to allow him to campaign freely like his colleagues.
The statement reads in full, “The Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Mr. Omoyele Sowore is the only Presidential candidate in the forthcoming general election in Nigeria whose freedom of movement is being restricted by an unjust court order. This restriction placed against his freedom of movement has by consequence given his opponents in the race, an unfair advantage over him.
“While other candidates aren’t hindered from campaigning to Nigerians living at home and in the diaspora, Omoyele, Sowore of the AAC has been restricted to Nigeria by an unjust court order.
“Recall that Mr. Sowore, a contender against Buhari/APC in the 2019 general election, was arrested in August 2019 by the Buhari’s APC government for calling on Nigerians to protest the incompetence and failure of the regime in a five-point demand that took the regime up on Education, Health, Workers’ wage, Security and the Economy.
“In flagrant disregard for two different court orders, Mr. Sowore was subsequently held in the DSS custody for five months. Thirty-three months after his release from the DSS custody, the Buhari’s APC regime has totally abandoned the case in court.
“With the inability of the regime to prove any of its trumped-up charges in court, it is now evident that the Buhari’s APC government is simply using the court as a tool for the suppression of Mr. Sowore’s Movement. The implication of this restriction is that while the Presidential Candidate of the ruling party, APC and other Presidential candidates are able to travel to campaign and share their ideas with Nigerians living in the diaspora, and seek their support, Sowore has been unfairly prevented from doing same.
“With this, his main opponent, the ruling APC and the rest of the presidential candidates in the race have been given an unfair advantage over the AAC and its presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore. Consequently, the AAC and its Presidential candidate are already being rigged out of the election by its main opponent, the ruling APC.
“This alone makes nonsense of the entire electoral process and cast very strong aspersion on the credibility of the elections. The 2023 general election cannot be adjudged free and fair so long one of its participants is being deliberately rigged out before the election begins.
“It is to this end that we call on Nigerians, all lovers of freedom, and the international community to prevail on the ruling APC government to lift the restrictions placed on Sowore and allow him to campaign freely.”