Concerned Nigerians, a civic group led by Deji Adeyanju, has called on federal authorities to immediately release Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters who was taken into custody on Saturday morning by suspected state agents.
Mr Sowore was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. at his Lagos apartment. An associate who witnessed the incident said the operatives were from the State Security Service, an internal intelligence outfit with a reputation for ruthlessness.
Mr Sowore’s arrest was immediately attributed to a demonstration he planned with other social activists for August 5.
The protest was aimed at drawing attention to Nigeria’s grave security, economic and corruption challenges.
The SSS has not issued a formal statement about the arrest, but the police appeared to confirm the involvement of federal authorities in it with a statement Saturday afternoon that declared the protest a threat to national security.
The police said the planned protest, taggged ‘RevolutionNow’ was a call to arm against the state and had amounted to a felonious act of terrorism.
The police statement has received an equal share of condemnation as the controversial arrest of Mr Sowore from Nigerians.
Former Vice President and opposition leader, Atiku Abubakar, and prominent social critic, Oby Ezekwesili, were amongst those who have condemned the federal authorities for the chaos and demanded respect of citizens’ rights to association and peaceful gathering.
Concerned Nigerians, which is also amongst the coalition of civic groups organising the protest across 21 cities, condemned the police and SSS’ action as dangerous to a democratic nation.
“The authorities should know that there’s no other way to describe an act of terrorism than the weaponisation of poverty by the political class,” the group said in a statement signed by its leader, Deji Adeyanju.
“The Nigerian Police making these frivolous allegations against a group with a well spelt out agenda that encompasses economic emancipation for the Nigerian people are equally not immune from the systemic failure that the group wants an end to,” it added.
The statement also emphasised what the protest would be about and urged the police to stop trying to disrupt it with dangerous exaggerations.
“It is greatly worrisome that the police with the power to investigate will not care to find out what the objective of the group is as clearly spelt out in their demands.
“The ‘RevolutionNow’ group is advocating for an Economy for all, an end to incessant killings in the country, equal opportunity for every Nigerian, free education for all, Living wages and an end to impunity by people in government.
“These demands are not out of place and shouldn’t be seen as treasonable felony or act of terrorism.
“Finally, it’s never too late for the Nigerian government to retrace its step and respect the rights of citizens to freely assemble and express themselves.
“The Buhari led government and those behind the arrests of our comrades should know that Power is transient and their actions are capable of derailing our 20 years of democratic journey. Enough is enough!”