A former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, was Monday morning arrested by security agents at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, as she tried to travel to London for a scheduled engagement.
The operatives confiscated her travelling documents as well.
She was however released after the government came under intense pressure as news of her arrest flooded the social media and travelled around the country, with many Nigerians lambasting the administration for increasingly clamping down on critics and members of the opposition.
Mrs. Ezekwesili had tweeted at 7:37 a.m. Monday that she was heading to London to appear on the BBC Hardtalk programme but was prevented from boarding her flight by security operatives.
Is this a democracy? I am being detained by the SSS at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport . The SSS has refused to give my passport to me,” she posted. “On my way to London this morning for my @BBCHARDtalk appearance billed for tomorrow and the SSS has detained me by withholding my passport.”
These tweets soon went viral within minutes with several Nigerians on social media lampooning the government and calling for the immediate release of the former minister.
At 8:03 am, Mrs. Ezekwesili tweeted that the operatives had released her passport.
“SSS has released it. Just barely made the BA flight. Last to board @ 7.55 for an 8.00 am flight that is now taxiing. Is this democracy?” she wrote. “No one can seize my democratic rights. I refused to let the SSS get away with trampling on my constitutional right.”
The former minister is one of the leaders of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group, which has been consistently pressurising the Nigerian government to act more decisively in rescuing the over 250 schoolgirls abducted from their dormitory by the extremist Boko Haram sect over three months ago.
A former World Bank executive, Mrs. Ezekwesili is a renowned anti-corruption campaigner and she has in the past year become one of the most vociferous critics of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
She has accused the administration of widespread corruption and has repeatedly demanded accountability on the use of the nation’s oil revenues.
The #BringBackOurGirls group she leads has become a thorn in the flesh of the administration with the government making unsubstantiated allegations to discredit the campaigners.
The administration recently hired an American Public Relations firm to help it counter the narratives being pushed by the activists regarding the government’s effort to rescue the missing girls.