Nigeria: U.S. Lawmakers React to Sowore's Release

Omoyele Sowore
25 December 2019

Two lawmakers of the United States of America have reacted to the release of Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters.

The lawmakers are Bob Menendez, a ranking member of the U. S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and another senator, Cory Booker.

In his reaction, Mr Menendez said while he is gratified to hear of Mr Sowore's release, he is hopeful that Nigeria's justice system will run a transparent and credible legal process.

The senator who made this known on his verified twitter handle said: "I'm gratified to hear of Mr Sowore's release, and I expect the government of Nigeria to ensure his continued safety and security now that he is out of custody. I am hopeful that moving forward we can rely on the Nigerian justice system for a transparent, credible legal process. I plan to continue to closely watch further proceedings in Mr Sowore's case"

His colleague, Mr Booker said although the political activist's release was commendable, "unfortunately he can't join his family in New Jersey for the (Xmas) holidays."

"Glad to hear that Omoyele Sowore has been released from prison, though it's unfortunate he can't join his family in NJ for the holidays. Now, the Nigerian government must assure his continued safety and security as he awaits his trial and cease their concerning attacks on the press," Mr Booker wrote on Twitter.

Long journey

Mr Sowore, a former presidential candidate, was arrested on August 3 for planning #RevolutionNow, a series of protests to demand an end to corruption and demand better living conditions for all citizens.

The protests were planned to commence on August 5. But on August 3, armed State Security Service (SSS) officers broke into an apartment Mr Sowore was staying with some of his associates in Lagos.

He and his associate, Olawale Bakare, were taken away in the raid that was captured by security cameras.

The SSS refused to release Messrs Sowore and Bakare despite two separate court orders for his release.

They were eventually released on December 5 after a court on that day directed the SSS to release both men within 24 hours.

A day later, the SSS violently stormed the court to rearrest Mr Sowore. He was held without fresh charges since then until his release on Tuesday.

Constitutionally, no Nigerian ought to be held in detention beyond 48 hours without a court order.

U.S. lawmakers efforts

Foreign lawmakers had raised concern over the continued detention of Mr Sowore.

Chris Coons, U.S. Senator criticised Mr Sowore's re-arrest. Mr Coons is the Vice-Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations.

He said in a tweet that he was "concerned that this case is representative of closing of political and media space in Nigeria.

A Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, urged Mr Buhari to heed to previous court rulings. He also expressed dissatisfaction over Mr Sowore continued detention.

Before now, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Menendez, a member of the United States Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and Josh Gotthiemer wrote to the Nigerian ambassador in the U.S., Sylvanus Nsofor, over the continuous detention of the political activist.

Also, in October, a member of the United States House of Representatives, Karen Bass, said the action of the SSS violates a "fragment of his fundamental human right".

Last Friday, Mr Gottheimer described Mr Sowore, as a 'prisoner of conscience' during his meeting with Opeyemi-Sowore, wife of the detained political activist.

He nominated him as a prisoner of conscience with Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how six U.S. lawmakers wrote a letter which cautioned Attorney General, Abubakar Malami against the disobedience of rule of law under President Muhammadu Buhari's administration.

The letter was signed by Robert Menendez (senator), Charles Schumer (senator), Cory Booker (senator), Christopher Coons (senator), Bill Pascrell (congressman) and John Gotheirmer (congressman).

Set free

On Tuesday, Mr Malami issued an order to the SSS to release Me Sowore and Sambo Dasuki, a detained former National Security Adviser.

Eventually at 6:04 p.m., Tuesday, Mr Sowore stepped of the SSS custody at its headquarters as PREMIUM TIMES witnessed the release.

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