Again, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government of Nigeria displayed its disdain for human rights and peaceful assembly when security forces arrested human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, and other activists in Abuja, the nation's capital.
Sowore and other activists were carrying out a peaceful procession to mark the New Year. The activists were almost done with their crossover procession when about seven loaded vans of the Nigerian security forces swooped on them, brutalising everyone at sight.
Eyewitnesses say police officers suspected to be the Rapid Response Squad stormed Gudu junction in Abuja, wounding Sowore before whisking him away with other activists from the location.
They were taken to Abattoir police station of the allegedly disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit in Abuja, where they are currently being tortured and detained.
According to sources, the African Action Congress (AAC) presidential candidate in the 2019 elections was severely injured by the policemen.
Sowore could not be reached Friday morning. Efforts to contact him via his mobile proved abortive, suggesting that his phones must have been seized or put off. Others who were arrested with him could not also be reached for comments as of press time.
Those who last spoke with him confirmed they were taken to the Abattoir police station, Lokogoma, Abuja.
A source said, "Sowore, Sanyaolu Juwon, Michael and two others are currently detained at Abattoir Police Station, Abuja. Sowore is currently bleeding from the nose as the officers brutalised him.
"The comrades were almost done with their crossover protest when about seven loaded vans of the Nigerian military swooped on them, brutalising everyone at sight.
"Sowore was particularly singled out for torture by the security operatives, who gave him a bloodied nose before whisking him away."
The arrest, brutalisation and detention of Sowore might not be unconnected to the #CrossoverWithProtest, a planned procession across the country on new year eve to demand an end to bad governance in Nigeria.
Hours before his arrest, Sowore had tweeted, "How about a crossover protest/uprising tonight? Anyone willing to participate? Pick up a candle and a placard showing your grievances against the regime; let's upload our short videos and photos across our social media platforms. Let's welcome the regime to a resolute 2021!
"#CrossoverWithProtest against tyrant @mbuhari's regime, candlelight for #LekkiMassacre; a placard for #EndBadGovernment; procession to usher in #Revolutionary 2021, a fist for victims of repression-frozen bank accounts, malicious prosecution and detention of #Endsars activists.
"#Crossoverwithprotest starts at 11:30 till 12:30 am across Nigeria, a candle, a placard and fireworks to usher in a RESOLUTE 2021 in Nigeria! Join with your friends and neighbours #EndSARS. #ObigboMassacre #LekkiMassacre #EndBadGoveranceInNigeria #BuhariTrainwreck #RevolutionNow.”
#Crossoverwithprotest starts at 11:30 till 12:30am across Nigeria, a candle, a placard and fireworks to usher in a RESOLUTE 2021 in Nigeria! Join with your friends and neighbours #EndSARS #ObigboMassacre #LekkiMassacre #EndBadGoveranceInNigeria #BuhariTrainwreck #RevolutionNow https://t.co/x1IckSmlXy pic.twitter.com/AZPBU2v7Iz— Omoyele Sowore (@YeleSowore) December 31, 2020
It will be recalled that Sowore was arrested on August 3, 2019, in Lagos by the Department of State Services, Nigeria's domestic intelligence agency with a history of repression.
He was moved to the agency's headquarters in Abuja where he was illegally detained for 144 days despite different court orders for his release.
The DSS accused Sowore of baseless crimes like money laundering. The security agency claimed he was plotting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari even though it failed to produce evidence to substantiate its claim.
He was subsequently arraigned for treason but had pleaded not guilty. The activist cum journalist was granted bail in November 2020, but part of the conditions restricts him to Abuja.
Nigerians on social media have called for his release with hashtag #freesowore. The police have yet to issue any statement on his arrest.