Security agency denies shooting at Nigerian activists


Nigeria’s state security agency denied its officers opened fire on campaigners calling for the release of a Nigerian activist and former presidential candidate who remains in detention despite having been granted bail.

Omoyele Sowore, who ran for president as a minor candidate in the February election which saw former military ruler President Muhammadu Buhari secure a second term, was arrested in August after calling for a revolution.

In September Sowore pleaded not guilty to charges of treason, money laundering and harassing the president. He was granted bail on October 4 but not been released because the Department for State Security (DSS) says conditions have not been met.

Supporters of Sowore, who founded Nigerian online news organisation Sahara Reporters, staged a protest at DSS headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday and said security agency officers opened fire on them.

The claims were denied by the DSS.

“Despite serial and unwarranted provocations, the Service, as a professional and responsible organisation, did not shoot at the so-called protesters,” the DSS said in a statement.

Sowore’s continued detention prompted some to criticise Buhari over his administration’s record on human rights, particularly a crackdown on followers of a Shi’ite leader detained since 2015 without trial.

Nigerian campaign groups, including Concerned Nigerians Group and the Coalition in Defence of Nigerians Democracy and Constitution, issued a statement saying “violent attacks” on protesters at DSS headquarters show Buhari “is running a dictatorship again”.

Buhari was Nigeria head of state between December 1983 and August 1985, after taking power in a military coup. He was replaced by the military.

Sowore was granted bail with conditions including provision of 100 million naira ($277,777) and two sureties.

The DSS reiterated its “avowed readiness to release Sowore” once the people who provided surety presented themselves.

Femi Falana, a lawyer representing Sowore, called on the DSS to release his client from “illegal custody”.

He accused the DSS of “aggravating the felony of contempt of court by asking sureties verified by the trial court to report at its office for an illegal verification”.