Sunday, November 10, 2019 5:08 pm
We, the undersigned, call for the immediate release of pro-democracy activists, Messrs. Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare, from detention. Mr. Sowore, a former presidential candidate and founder of the online news and investigative medium, Sahara Reporters, has been held by the Federal Government since his arrest at his Lagos home on August 3.
On September 30, Mr. Sowore was arraigned before an Abuja Federal High Court on charges of “treason, money laundering, and harassing the president” – the last of which is unknown to Nigerian statutes. On October 4, an Abuja Federal Court granted both Messrs. Sowore and Bakare bail, but on conditions so stiff and so onerous as to amount to no bail at all. Even though Sowore’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, announced, after the bail conditions were revised, that the conditions have been satisfied, the Department of State Security (DSS) has refused to respect the rule of law. We fear that the Federal Government is determined to continue to hold on to both men for as long as possible.
The continued detention of both human rights advocates is an egregious injustice and a travesty of the rule of law. The charges that the Federal Government has brought against Messrs. Sowore and Bakare aretotally bogus and laughable. Evidently, both have been targeted by the Buhari administration for their brave and unstinting activism in the cause of political freedom and economic prosperity for all Nigerians.
In the specific case of Mr. Sowore, it would seem reasonable to surmise that his continued detention is not unrelated to the vigorous and unsparing criticism of the current administration and the state of affairs in Nigeria by his online newspaper, Sahara Reporters.Sowore’s call for a “revolution” in Nigeria is not unprecedented. Many who have expressed patriotic and visionary objections to the fundamental crises of the Nigerian state have made similar calls in the past. President Muhammadu Buhari did so when he felt that elections were rigged against him. He even cited the example of the “Egyptian revolution.” Before he became president, Buhari relentlessly inveighed against three successive presidents, even as he repeatedly lost electoral contests against his predecessors. He was neither harassed nor detained. Indeed, today, President Buhari is a beneficiary of the gallant efforts of the likes of Sowore, over almost two decades, to return Nigeria to democratic rule and expand the space for democratic life.
Therefore, this insidious and lawless move by the Buhari administration runs against the basic ethos of democracy, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We urge Nigerians from all walks of lifeand those committed to human liberty all over the world to speak up against this blatant perversion of justice. We call on the National Assembly, civil society organizations, and international human rights and political advocacy organizations to put pressure on the Federal Government to release Messrs. Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare immediately. The continued detention of these two Nigerians – andindeed others who have been granted bail by the courts – makes a mockery of our hard-won democratic freedoms.
Ebenezer Obadare, University of Kansas, USA
Wale Adebanwi, University of Oxford, UK
Ayisha Osori, Concerned Citizen, Abuja, Nigeria
Chido Onumah, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy, Abuja, Nigeria
Frank Aragbonfoh Abumere, The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
Kunle Ajibade, The News, Lagos, Nigeria
G. Ugo Nwokeji, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Nike Ransome-Kuti, Legal Practitioner, Lagos, Nigeria
Tunde Fagbenle, author, Ibadan, Nigeria
Amatoritsero Ede, University of the Bahamas, Nassau, The Bahamas
Akin Osuntokun, Visiting Fellow, University of Oxford, UK
Rogers Orock, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
Ebun Sonaiya, Lagos, Nigeria
Kole Odutola, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
Teju Olaniyan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Funmi Iyanda, OYA Media, UK
Stacey Vanderhurst, University of Kansas, USA
Tade Ipadeola, PEN International
Elke Zuern, Sarah Lawrence Ciollege, New York, USA
James Yeku, University of Kansas, USA
Kathryn Rhine, University of Kansas, USA
Moses Ochonu, Vanderbilt University, USA
Dapo Olorunyomi, Premium Times, Abuja, Nigeria
Jumoke Verissimo, University of Alberta, Canada