Ex-US Ambassador To Nigeria Warns FG Over Consequence Of Sowore’s Re-Arrest
Former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell has berated the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government over the re-arrest of Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
In a blog post published on the website of the Council for Foreign Affairs (CFA), Campbell wrote: “The episode, if not quickly resolved, could further damage Nigeria’s international reputation—particularly among the diaspora living in the United States.
“The incoming Biden administration has signaled that it will be deeply concerned about human rights issues.
“The arrest of Sowore and the denial of bail is a poor representation of Nigeria to the incoming administration.”
Sowore was arrested alongside four protesters during a #CrossOverProtest held on the eve of New Year in Abuja.
After detention for four days, he was arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court sitting in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja.
The police arraigned the defendants on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and attempting to incite others.
The court remanded the defendants at the Kuje Correctional Centre pending the determination of their bail application the next day.
However, Sowore was returned to court in handcuffs on Tuesday only for the Magistrate, Taye Maibel, to adjourn the case until January 8 without granting or denying them bail.
Reacting to Sowore’s travails, Campbell queried the rationale behind the arrest, saying his protests have been peaceful.
“Though he has been a thorn in the side of the Buhari administration, why did the police arrest Sowore in the aftermath of a small, peaceful protest?” Campbell queried.
Quoting several media reports, Campbell wrote, “Swore is a fierce critic of Nigeria’s political economy in general and President Muhammadu Buhari in particular.
“He has called for a “revolution” and organized peaceful protests across the nation. Some critics see his use of “revolution” as evidence that he is trying to overthrow the government extralegally, though his protests have been peaceful.
“He is at present charged with “treason” and had been out on bail following his previous arrest; one of the conditions was that he could not leave Abuja.
“Just before New Year’s he was calling for nationwide “crossover protests” against bad government, the Lekki massacre, and other human rights grievances. In Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, opposition to a government may be construed as treason.
“Because the protests were to be nationwide, the authorities (or some of them) may have seen Sowore as violating the provision of his parole that restricts him to Abuja even though he had not left the city. For them, that could be a pretext for jailing him.
“From media accounts, the arrests were heavy-handed: multiple police vans appeared and Sowore is reported to have been beaten.”
He recalled that the initial arrest and prolonged detention of Sowore, who is a permanent resident of the US and whose family resides in New Jersey, attracted the protest of Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).