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Eminent personalities call for release of Sowore, Olawale

Twenty-four eminent personalities, cutting across spheres of life including academia, media, law from both home and abroad have jointly signed a press statement, calling on the authorities in Nigeria to, without further delay, release detained activists, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare.

Sowore, a former presidential candidate and founder of the online news and investigative medium, Sahara Reporters, has been, along with his colleague Olawale, held by the Federal Government since his arrest at his Lagos home on August 3.

On September 30, the duo was arraigned before an Abuja Federal High Court on charges of “treason, money laundering, and harassing the president”.

Though they were granted bail with stiff conditions on October 4, they are yet to be released by the Department of State Services (DSS) which has claimed it could not find someone to release them to, weeks after meeting the bail conditions.

The eminent group stated in the statement that “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 Mr Sowore and Bakare are totally 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.”

They urge “Nigerians from all walks of life and 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 – and indeed others who have been granted bail by the courts – makes a mockery of our hard-won democratic freedoms.”

Eminent personalities who signed the press statement are:

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 College, 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