Former Vice President and opposition leader, Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the arrest of two Nigerians by suspected state agents between Friday and Saturday in what appears to be a clampdown on critics of the government.
The State Security Services, also known as DSS, has been identified as the agency responsible for the incarceration of two anti-government activists with prominent presence on social media.
Omoyele Sowore, activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, and Abubakar Idris, a strong critic of Governor Umar Ganduje, were arrested in Lagos and Kaduna respectively.
“Freedom of speech is not only constitutionally guaranteed, it is the substructure of our democracy. These kidnappings in the guise of arrests stand condemned,” Mr Abubakar said on Twitter Saturday morning.
Mr Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party who ran against President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection and has continued to challenge it in court, did not mention those arrested in his tweets.
But his aides have told PREMIUM TIMES he was obviously alluding to the arrests of Mr Sowore and Mr Idris.
Mr Sowore was arrested shortly at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday at his home in Lagos, and an associate who witnessed the incident said SSS operatives carried out the operation and took him to their field office in Shangisha, Lagos.
About 24 hours prior in Kaduna, some men arrested Mr Idris, widely known on social media as Dadiyata, as he was about driving into his home. His wife told PREMIUM TIMES the incident occurred at about 1:00 a.m. on Friday.
The men were armed and they took Mr Idris away in his vehicle. The family reported the matter to the police, who confirmed they were investigating it as a kidnap case.
However, messages began circulating online late Friday that Mr Idris was arrested by the SSS and taken to its Kaduna office.
Mr Idris has been a major critic of Mr Ganduje for his handling of Kano affairs, amidst charges of bribes and racketeering. The family has not ascribed any motive to Mr Idris’ ordeal.
The secret police has continued to decline comments about both incidents to PREMIUM TIMES, despite widespread uproar about them.
Mr Sowore was arrested in an apparent connection to the ‘RevolutionNow’ he and other activists have planned for August 5.
The activists said they would not back down until their demands for a better Nigeria had been met by the Nigerian government.
Oby Ezekwesili, former education minister, also joined calls for Mr Sowore’s immediate release and warned President Muhammadu Buhari to desist from suppressive acts that could undermine the democratic space.