Human RightsNews

Amnesty International Condemns Sowore’s Delayed Release

A global human rights organisation, Amnesty international has chided the Nigerian government over the delay in releasing Omoyele Sowore, convener of Revolution Now Movement.

Sowore, also the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was arrested along with other four activists on New Year’s Eve for spearheading a series of planned protests across the country— tagged #theCrossover Protest— over bad governance and economic hardship.

The campaigns were targeted at condemning the government’s apparent squashing of the youthfully-engaged #EndSARS protests that demanded a better Nigeria after experiences of police brutality and extrajudicial killings.

On Monday, Sowore and other activists were arraigned before the Wuse Magistrate Court in Abuja and were docked on a three-count charge of unlawful assembly, conspiracy, incitement and COVID-19 protocols breach.

Bail applications by the activists were to be heard on Friday but the applicants did not show up because the police failed to present them before Chief Magistrate Mabel Segun-Bello hearing the case of their illegal detention, HumAngle gathered.

Rebuking what it viewed as a politically motivated tactic to keep the activists in custody, Amnesty International said it was appalled by how the Nigerian government is trying to “frustrate the bail applications.”

“Amnesty International is appalled by the delay tactics that the Nigerian authorities are using to frustrate the bail applications of Sowore, Juwon, Damilare, Kimrele and Peter,” the rights group said on Twitter.

“These activists were unlawfully arrested for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression on 1 January 2021.

Marshal Abubakar, the activists’ counsel, while addressing newsmen on Friday said that there was confusion among the prosecutors over whose responsibility the case was for.

He said he received some documents that the case had been transferred from the Commissioner of Police to the Deputy Inspector-General in charge of the Police Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department(FCIID) but the FCIID turned down the request to convey the defendants, saying “it is not in their place to do so.”

“In service, the moment you request for the case file of a suspect and the case file was officially transferred to you, it is assumed that you have taken over the responsibility of that particular matter,” the Abubakar said.

He said another signal came to the court from the office of Attorney General that the matter be transferred to Directorate of Public Prosecution ( DPP ).

The rights group, which had condemned some of the government’s apparent crackdowns like the detention of Ibrahim El-zakyzaky, the Shiites Islamic Movement’s leader, and his wife, Zeenat, against court orders, said the arbitrary detention of the activists is a throwback to Nigeria’s dark days when citizens lived under repressive authorities.

“Their arbitrary detention shows a continuous pattern of repression by the Nigerian authorities,” Amnesty International said while calling for their “immediate release and all charges against them dropped.”

In 2019, Amnesty International named Sowore along with other two Nigerians, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo, as prisoners of conscience whose incarcerations were viewed as politically motivated.

Sowore at the time was arrested for leading the #RevolutionNow campaign that spoke against bad governance— a move seen by the Department of Security Service (DSS) as plotting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari after running unsuccessfully for president in the February election.

The secret police failed to produce any evidence to substantiate its claim before the public.

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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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