Journalist released on bail
After 174 days in detention, a Federal High Court granted bail to journalist, Agba Jalingo, on 13 February. On 17 February, he met the bail conditions and was released from prison. His two previous applications for bail were denied. His trial resumes 6 - 8 April.
Agba Jalingo’s co-defendants also continue to face charges. Omoyele Sowore remains in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, where he is unable to speak to the press as part of the conditions for his bail. His movement is restricted to Abuja, where his trial is being held, far away from his family. On 13 February, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Adebayo Bakare were re-arraigned in court, but the prosecution could not proceed to trial as scheduled, because they had not given the defense copies of the evidence. The court has fixed 11 - 13 March for their trial.
Who are the Nigerian human rights defenders facing treason?
Omoyele Sowore is a human rights activist and publisher for the online news agency, Sahara Reporters. On 3 August 2019, armed officials from Nigeria’s Department of Security Services arrested Sowore. At the time of his arrest, he was planning a protest, tagged #RevolutionNow, demanding good governance in Nigeria. Sowore’s protest is considered to be an act of treason, and a call for an undemocratic overthrow of the government.
On 30 September 2019, Sowore was arraigned in court alongside Olawale Bakare, a 21-year-old student arrested during a #RevolutionNow protest in Osun state, in south-western Nigeria, on 5 August 2019. Nigerian authorities have continued to disregard a court order for the release of Sowore and Bakare, even after their bail conditions were fulfilled. Sowore and Bakare are currently being detained by Nigerian authorities in the department of State Security Service.
Agba Jalingo is a journalist for the CrossRiverWatch news website. Jalingo was arrested on 22 August 2019 for publishing an article demanding the Cross River State government be held accountable for spending 500 million naira (approximately 1,071,240 GBP) to float the Cross River Microfinance Bank.
In Nigeria, civic space continues to shrink as Nigerian authorities increasingly clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Authorities have intimidated journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders; harassing them through verbal and physical assault, arbitrary arrest, detention, and prosecuting them through trumped-up charges and misuse of the Cybercrime and Terrorism laws.