The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared the detention of Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, by the Federal Government for about 144 days in 2019 as arbitrary under international law.
This is contained in the decision of the group titled, ‘Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its eighty-seventh session, 27 April–1 May 2020’.
It was released on October 6, 2019.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established in resolution 1991/42 of the Commission on Human Rights.
Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251 and Human Rights Council decision 1/102, the Council assumed the mandate of the Commission.
Sowore was arrested in August 2019 for planning to organise a nationwide protest tagged #RevolutionNow which was aimed at demanding better governance in the country.
The activist and former presidential candidate, who was detained by the Department of State Services up till December 24, 2019, was charged with treasonable felony for allegedly attempting to topple the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
The UN group, after analysing the circumstances of the arrest and detention of Sowore as well as the charges instituted against him, called on the Nigerian government to stop its unlawful prosecution of the activist.
The Working Group described the charges against Sowore as “quite vaguely defined,” adding that “such vagueness seems to have been used to make an ordinary exercise of freedoms sound like a threat to national security and/or a terrorist act.”
The opinion reads in part, “The deprivation of liberty of Omoyele Sowore, being in contravention of articles 9 and 11 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 3, 9, 14 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II, III and V.
“The Working Group requests the Government of Nigeria to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Sowore without delay and to bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” it added.
Meanwhile, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, declined to order the request by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for Sowore’s arrest.
Sowore is restricted to remain in Abuja as stipulated in the terms and conditions of the bail granted him by the judge.
He was not present in court when the matter started on Wednesday, a development which prompted the prosecuting counsel, Kayode Alilu, to urge the court to order his arrest.
Defence counsel, Marshal Abubakar, opposed the request, saying Sowore informed him earlier before the proceedings that he developed an ailment.
He added that Sowore’s co-defendant Olawale Bakare, could not travel from Osogbo, Osun State, due to the ongoing restrictions in many part of the country as a result of the #EndSARS protests.
While the prosecuting counsel accepted the explanation for Bakare’s absence, he insisted that the judge should order Sowore’s arrest as there was no medical report tendered in court to show he was truly sick.
But Abubakar said there was no way his client could have obtained a medical report since he developed malaria symptoms the same day.
Meanwhile, Sowore arrived at the courtroom during the back-and-forth argument between the defence and the prosecution on the issue.
The judge, who declined to grant the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant against the defendant, adjourned the trial till December 10 and 11.