Human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore has started an online petition, #FreeSofiat to get justice and freedom for a female soldier, Hannah Sofiat, who accepted a marriage proposal from a male member of the National Youth Service Corps Orientation Camp in Yikpata, Kwara State.
The goal was to have 100 signatories but it had surpassed that in less than an hour after its initiation.
The petition was initiated to force President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Army to free the female soldier.
The military had detained Sofiat since the video of her accepting the marriage proposal went viral last week.
SaharaReporters had reported that Sofiat was ordered to be detained by Captain M. M. Abdulahi, Kwara State NYSC Camp Commandant at a military detention facility in Ilorin pending further investigations.
Nigerian Army Charges Female Soldier In Marriage Proposal Viral Video With 7 Counts Of Misconduct, Denies Her Access To Sanitary Materials, Others | Sahara Reporters https://t.co/zqYftUCs5n pic.twitter.com/dRJZlM5lcV— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) December 20, 2021
Meanwhile, the army has charged Sofiat with seven counts of misconduct.
A military source said she was detained for not “due for marriage, romancing on uniform publicly, absent on parade, indiscriminate behaviour, doing other things aside from her purpose in NYSC camp, disobedience to the standing order of social media rule and disobedience to ethics and tradition of the Nigerian Army.”
In one of the trending video clips, some corps members were seen discussing at a venue believed to be the parade ground of the orientation camp.
The discussion was still ongoing when the corps member went down on one knee and popped the question to Sofiat, with the soldier accepting the proposal.
The corps member then went on to put a ring on the finger of the visibly excited Sofiat amid cheers from others at the scene.
Sofiat has been detained by the army authorities since the incident and they have vowed to punish her.
The Nigerian Army had said the female soldier would be punished for violating military rules and regulations.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, had stated that the female officer violated military laws by getting involved in a public display of amorous relationship with a paramilitary trainee – a corps member.
Meanwhile, Sowore instituted an online petition to free Sofiat, on Monday. And at the time of filing this report, 311 people had signed the petition.
Sowore had written, "I just started the petition, ‘#FreeSofiat: Release Female Soldier held in Jail over marriage proposal In Nigeria’ and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.
"My goal is to reach 100 signatures and I need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here: https://chng.it/bGrCn9yH.”
Stressing that “love should not be punished”, Sowore had also called for Sofiat’s immediate release, saying, “Nigeria’s male-dominated misogynistic ‘Armed Forces’ has detained a female soldier, Pte. Sofiyat Akinlabi for accepting a marriage proposal on the sidelines of a Youth Service Corps scheme passing out parade for fresh graduates.
“They claimed she had no right to accept the proposal in army uniform and that she’s not entitled to get married for three years after being enlisted in the Nigerian Army,
“However, photos and videos of male soldiers proposing marriage all over Nigeria have surfaced since this controversy broke, ironically, they were never reprimanded or punished for it
“We are asking the Nigerian army to release a 24-year-old female soldier, Private Sofiyat Akinlabi, who has been detained by the military after she accepted this innocuous marriage proposal from her fiance and youth corps member at the orientation camp in Kwara state.
“The Headquarters of the Nigerian Army authorities have denied Sofiat’s family members access to her and refused to provide her with food, sanitary materials, and medical care at the military cantonment in Sobi Barracks, where she is being held, according to her family.
“The young female soldier is being detained under unhealthy conditions in a ‘guardroom’ reportedly meant for male soldiers, according to her family.
“She has been penalized and facing seven counts of misconduct, according to family members, who fear for her safety.
“The Nigeria military spokesman Col. Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu also said Sofiat will be penalized, according to media reports.
“Sofiat is being stigmatized and detained for saying YES to love and her family fear for her safety. She knew the corp member before they met in the camp and the couple decided to strengthen their relationship.
“It is Christmas time and Sofiat should be with her family and loved ones during the holidays and not held up in a DUNGEON.
“Her commanding officer, Brigadier General AE Abubakar is threatening to send her to an underground cell at the Headquarters of the Nigerian Army dungeon at the Army headquarters in Abuja, according to her family.
“Pte Sofiyat Akinlabi must be released immediately.
“We are calling on the Brig. Gen AE Abubakar to ensure that she’s not hurt or further maltreated in custody.
“We are asking the Nigeria Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Farouk Yahaya to RESPECT her constitutional rights and ensure that she’s not stigmatized or dismissed from the military. We further call on the Nigerian military and security forces to review and remove all discriminatory rules against servicewomen in its books with immediate effect!
“We’re calling on the Kwara State Coordinator, National Youth Service Corp, Francisca Olaleye to ensure no harm or hurt happens to the couple.”