A United States Senator, Robert Menendez, has declared that America will review its bilateral relationship with Nigeria over the lengthened detention and rearrest of Omoyele Sowore, by the Nigerian Department of State Services(DSS).
“We are watching and will be reviewing our relationship with the Nigeria government,” Menendez said at a press conference jointly addressed by Sowore’s wife Opeyemi in the US. He also warned the Nigerian government that “(for) any harms that come to Sowore, there will be consequences.”
Sowore is a political activist, former presidential aspirant and Sahara Reporters’ publisher. On 3rd of August, he was detained by the DSS for alleged treason after he called for a protest tagged #RevolutionNow. He had stayed in DSS detention for 124 days till his release on Thursday’s night, the 5th of December after the court gave Nigeria’s secret police a 24-hour ultimatum to release him. He was released but was sadly rearrested in less than 24 hours.
A hearing had resumed on Friday, after his release, with the presiding Judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, adjourning the case till February 11 and 12 and 13, 2020 for definite hearing. While everyone filed out of the courtroom, no fewer than 15 armed officers of the DSS, who had laid an ambush for the defendants, made their way towards Sowore and his co-defendant Bakare and arrested them with force after much resistance.
Menendez termed the incident as a “blatant miscarriage of justice” which is “symptomatic of closing political and media space in Nigeria.” He added that he shall be engaging directly with US Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, in Abuja to raise Sowore’s case at the “highest levels of the Nigerian Government so that the Buhari administration gets the message that we are committed to defending Sowore’s rights and securing his release.”
More so, another U.S senator, Cory Anthony Booker, has said the invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to re-arrest Sowore is a “shocking affront to the country’s rule of law and Nigeria must cease its dangerous attacks on freedom of expression.” Booker on his Twitter handle on Friday said, “It’s appalling that NJ journalist Omoyele Sowore was re-arrested in Nigeria hours after his release.”
Apart from these condemnations from the American government, several Nigerian nationalists have openly condemned this act by the DSS. They include Nobel Laurel Prof. Wole Soyinka, Afenifere, Oby Ezekwesili and Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin.
By Ishioma Eni