The Presidency has reacted to the re-arrest of Sahara Reporters publisher Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Services.
In a statement on Sunday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said Sowore is a person of interest to the secret police.
“The Presidency notes some of the insinuations in the media about the arrest by the Department of State Services (DSS) of the agitator, Omoyele Sowore,” Shehu said in a statement.
“The DSS does not necessarily need the permission of the Presidency in all cases to carry out its essential responsibilities that are laid down in the Nigerian Constitution – which was the foundation for the restoration of democracy in our country in 1999.
“However, it should not surprise anyone who has followed his actions and words that Sowore is a person of interest to the DSS. Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.
“He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely read digital newspaper run from the United States of America.
“He founded an organisation, Revolution Now, to launch, in their own words, “Days of Rage”, with the publicised purpose of fomenting mass civil unrest and the elected administration’s overthrow.”
Sowore, according to Shehu, is not an ordinary citizen expressing his views freely on social media and the internet.
He said no government will allow “anybody to openly call for destabilization in the country and do nothing.”
Comparing Sowore’s activism to the insurgency in the north-east, Shehu said: “The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.”
“He was a presidential candidate himself, who ran – and lost – as the flag bearer of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 23 general elections,” Shehu said.
“Nigeria’s democracy was a long time in the making, and was achieved after decades of often harsh, military-led overthrows of government: the kind of situation Sowore was advocating.
“To believe in and desire armed revolution is not normal amongst ‘human rights activists’, as Sowore has been incorrectly described.
“Nigeria is already dealing with an insurgency that has left millions of people displaced and desperate in the northeastern region of our country.
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in far away New York – and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, to wit, Nnamdi Kanu. This is a matter for the DSS, acting under its powers.”
His lawyer Femi Falana told AFP on Friday that his client escaped being picked up by DSS on the court premises. He said he “personally drove him” to DSS office on Friday “to avoid violence”.
Sowore is being held by Nigeria’s intelligence agency since his arrest on August 3 — despite two court orders granting him bail. The journalist was released briefly on Thursday after a federal court gave the intelligence agency a 24-hour ultimatum to release Sowore pending his trial.
The controversial re-arrest added to growing concerns about Nigeria’s democracy and press freedom which critics say is under pressure.
Bob Menendez, a US Senator from New Jersey, where Sowore’s family is based, described his rearrest as a “blatant miscarriage of justice [which] is symptomatic of closing political and media space in Nigeria.” Menendez said he will be working with the US Ambassador to Nigeria to secure Sowore’s release.
Nigerian government described Sowore’s call for revolution as an “armed revolution” which is “not normal amongst ‘human rights activists.”
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in far away New York,” it added.