Press Release - Friends of Sowore October 1, 2019
After the Nigerian government ignored the initial court order to release Sowore on condition he surrendered his passport, on October 4, a new judge issued a ruling with stringent requirements, including $829,000 bail, not speaking with the press, and not leaving Nigeria’s capital..
Sowore was detained by the DSS -- Nigeria’s state security agency -- on August 3rd after calling for peaceful protest to demand the Nigerian government end wholesale corruption, institute minimum wages, and guarantee education. He is one of several journalists targeted and arbitrarily detained by the Nigerian government for reporting on widespread corruption and human rights violations in the country.
His trip to Nigeria was his first since revealing Nigeria’s Central Bank lost ₦500 billion (about USD $1.4 billion) in a failed private investment scheme. Sowore’s New York-based news organization, Sahara Reporters, obtained and published audio recordings from a whistleblower, of Godwin Emefiele, Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, and other officials discussing how to cover up the loss.
Femi Falana, a noted Nigerian human rights lawyer leading Sowore’s defense team, described the bail terms as “stringent” and in an interview with CNN accused the government of bringing trumped-up charges against his client. Abdul Mahmud, another human rights lawyer described the first 50 days of Sowore’s detention as illegal, “In a country where there is rule of law, Sowore ought to have been released by now."
Sowore’s detention has been condemned internationally. Organizations and individuals calling for his release include Amnesty International, Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, the Electronic FrontierFoundation, more than 50 other human rights and press advocacy groups, and more than 80 writers and academics -- including professors from Sowore’s alma mater Columbia University.
Sowore’s family remains concerned about his well-being. September 30 th was the first time he was seen in public since his detention nearly 60 days ago. “We are very concerned about Omoyele’s safety,” his wife Opeyemi Sowore said. “Our family, our friends and his many supporters are hoping and praying for his immediate release and his safe return home.” Sowore’s wife and two children are US citizens.
The detention of Sowore comes as press freedoms and free speech continue to be curtailed by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists has documented widespread harassment of journalists in the country including unlawful detention and assaults.
As founder of Sahara Reporters, Sowore’s advocacy for reforms in Nigeria and his reporting on government corruption are part of a decades-long career dedicated to human rights. The Nigerian-born activist has spent more than 30 years protesting and exposing corruption and human rights violations.
Release by Friends of Sowore: October 2019