Nearly two months after the arrest of Sahara Reporters publisher and 2019 Nigerian presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore on 3 August 2019, the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered his immediate release, following the conclusion of investigation into his #RevolutionNow movement. The 24 September decision, reports Premium Times, stated, in the paper’s wording, that “there was no extant order allowing Mr Sowore’s further detention by the State Security Service.” Sowore, who is represented by the legal powerhouse Femi Falana, was also ordered to deposit his international passport within 48 hours.
“The order of the court has expired,” stated the judge Taiwo Taiwo. “It has not been renewed and cannot be renewed in view of the motion ex-parte earlier withdrawn. The liberty of all Nigerians high or low, poor or rich, is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s for this end that I’m of the view that the defendant ought to be released forthwith.”
Sowore’s detention was widely condemned by Nigerians, including Wole Soyinka, who issued a statement. “Beyond the word ‘revolution,’ another much mis-used and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government,” Soyinka said. “We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin School, Ikenne.”
In response, the Federal Government had accused Soyinka of “blackmail.” “You mentioned the name of Professor Wole Soyinka. Some of these critics of government are people whom we have great respect and admiration for,” stated President Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu. “This is an unpardonable blackmail that cannot stop Police and other law enforcement agencies from doing their work.”
English PEN has since released a statement in support of Sowore.
It remains to be seen—and how did this even become an issue in a democracy?—whether the Federal Government will comply.