Robert Menendez, a United States senator has said America will review its relationship with Nigeria over the continued detention and rearrest of Sahara Reporters publisher Omoyele Sowore.
“We are watching and will be reviewing our relationship with the Nigeria government,” Menendez said at a press conference jointly addressed by Sowore’s wife Opeyemi in the US on Friday, December 6, 2019.
Menendez, a Democratic senator representing New Jersey, warned the Nigerian government that “(for) any harms that come to Sowore, there will be consequences.”
Operatives of the Department of Security Service, DSS, on Friday, December 6, 2019, re-arrested Sowore barely 24hours after his release.
Sowore was released on Thursday night after the court gave Nigeria’s secret police a 24-hour ultimatum to release him.
The court also awarded N100,000 against the prosecution for failing to comply with court orders requesting the release of Sowore and for not serving the defence counsel with necessary documents early enough.
After the resumed hearing on Friday, there was a stampede in the courtroom by DSS operatives who cocked their guns to scare the judge, lawyers, journalists and other people away.
Sowore and his co-defendant Bakare were rearrested and returned to custody by Nigeria’s secret police.
Menendez described the incident as a “blatant miscarriage of justice” which is “symptomatic of closing political and media space in Nigeria.”
The US Senator said he will be engaging directly with US Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, in Abuja to raise Sowore’s case at the “highest levels of the Nigerian Government so that the Buhari administration gets the message that we are committed to defending Sowore’s rights and securing his release.”
Before his release on Thursday, December 5, 2019, Sowore was in DSS detention for 124 days. He was arrested on Saturday, August 3, 2019, after calling for a nationwide protest tagged #RevolutionNow.
Despite Sowore’s arrest, the protest which focused on governance, government accountability to the people still took place in major parts of the country.
Sowore was charged on offences of treasonable felony, money laundering, terrorism and plotting to overthrow Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
The court had on two occasions ordered Sowore’s bail but was denied by the DSS for undisclosed reasons.