ABUJA – Supporters of detained former Nigerian presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore have taken their protests to an Abuja court, where his case is being heard.
Sowore and four other activists were arrested in Abuja on New Year’s Eve during a rally for their “Revolution Now” movement, demanding better governance. Authorities have charged them with unlawful assembly and criminal conspiracy.
About 70 protesters chanted angrily Friday at the Abuja magistrate court, demanding that Sowore be released immediately.
Earlier in the week, the judge presiding over the case postponed her ruling on Sowore’s bail application.
But police failed to show up with any of the detainees Friday, and court was finally adjourned.
Protest leader Kunle Ajayi, who avoided arrest during the raid on New Year’s Eve, said the protests will go on.
“We are not basing anything on hope,” Ajayi ssid. “If he doesn’t get released we’ll take action and that’s why we’re here today. We are not only going to come to court today, we’re coming to protest.”
Ajayi said the protest on New Year’s Eve was largely peaceful until police arrived.
“When they came instead of asking us what we were doing or asking any democratic question, in fact, Sowore was in his car because he didn’t join us, he was just filming from his car,” Ajayi said. “They came and they started attacking us. I was almost hit with a car.”
The five activists including Sowore who were picked up that day have been detained since, with limited access to food, water and medical care.
Authorities call their protest an unlawful assembly and this week, local media reports the activists have been charged with criminal conspiracy, and an attempt to incite public unrest.
However, prosecuting lawyer James Idachaba said they have not been formally charged.
“It is an FIR, this it’s not charge,” Ldachaba said. “You must know the difference between a charge and a FIR. This is first information report.”
Sowore ran for the presidency in Nigeria’s 2019 elections. His political party, African Action Congress (AAC), did not stand a chance at the polls against the major parties and he lost.
Before his re-arrest, Sowore was already facing two felony charges for leading “Revolution Now” — a political movement made up of mostly younger citizens calling for a better government.
His supporters are threatening more protests unless he is freed.
VOA (Voice of America)