After months of torture in Nigeria, labor activists Osmond Ugwu and Raphael Elobuike will go to trial Friday on murder charges that human rights groups call “an apparent bid by the police and prosecution to silence union activists.” And the two activists could face the death penalty if they lose.
But Damian Ugwu (no relation to Osmond) knows that the only “crime” the two men have committed is empowering workers in Nigeria to demand fair compensation and humane treatment.
Damian is convinced that international outcry can save Osmond and Raphael — not only from an unfair sentencing but from the possibility of assassination while imprisoned, too, which their friends fear. He started a petition on Change.org calling on government officials to drop all charges against Osmond and Raphael and release them immediately.
As an activist with the Social Justice Advocacy Initiative in Lagos, Damian has seen, again and again, how set-ups like this have succeeded in silencing human rights and labor activists. In fact, he says it’s not uncommon practice for the Attorney General, who’s tasked with bringing capital charges like murder, to show up at pre-trial hearings and trials for politically charged cases to intimidate judges.
But even with only a few hundred signatures on his petition so far, Damian says it is already making a difference: At the most recent pre-trial hearing for Osmond and Raphael, the Attorney General was conspicuously absent.
In the few days left before Osmond and Raphael’s trial, a surge in international outcry could tip the balance and save these two labor heroes from being wrongly sentenced, and possibly even put to death.
Thanks for being a change-maker,
– Weldon and the Change.org team