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Omoyele Sowore sits inside the Federal High Court in Abuja on 12 February 2020. © AFP - Kola Sulaimon

Nigeria: Activist Omoyele Sowore arrested, denied bail

3 January 2021

Prominent Nigerian publisher and activist Omoyele Sowore has been refused bail by authorities after being arrested for an “unlawful gathering” on New Year’s Eve along with four others, according to his lawyer Femi Falana. 

Falana told Nigeria’s Punch newspaper on Sunday that Sowore had been denied bail over alleged breaches of Covid-19 protocols. 

Nigerian police arrested five activists on 1 January following a call from local residents complaining about an “unusual gathering”, the authorities said. 

They were arrested for “unlawfully gathering at very odds hours” and causing tension amongst residents, a police spokesperson told the AFP news agency. 

On New Year’s Eve, Sowore used social media to call for demonstrations under the banner #EndBadGoveranceInNigeria, sending photos encouraging Nigerians to take to the streets. 

Sowore, a fierce critic of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, is founder of the Sahara Reporters news outlet, which often publishes damning investigations.

Falana said his client had been beaten by police officers and was forced to seek medical attention. The lawyer said the police were waiting for “orders from above”, since he judged that breaking Covid-19 measures is itself a bailable offence. 

Sowore urged his supporters to hold a candlelight protest on 31 December 2020, sharing photos of fellow anti-government activists holding placards reading, “#RevolutionNow! End bad governance, I stand with Sowore”. 

The activist previously stood as a presidential contender in the February 2019 elections, and his arrest comes following a wave of protests in Nigeria complaining about police brutality, dubbed #EndSARS, referring to the Anti-Robbery Squad, despised by protesters. 

A version of this report appeared on the French news agency, RFI.

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