Sowore, Publisher of N.Y.-based SaharaReporters, Says Nigeria Arrest Was Retaliation for Corruption Story

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Sowore being led into police precinct

On Wednesday January 11, Omoyele Sowore, the Publisher of New York-based SaharaReporters, the enterprising anti-corruption news website, was arrested by officers of Lagos state police command of the Nigerian Police Force.

According to Sowore, in a statement posted on YouTube, it was actually a set-up. He was first allegedly assaulted by a Nigerian journalist named Lekan Fatodu and some associate of his. He was then later arrested by police who allegedly were working in league with Fatodu who had been the subject of a news report in January 2016 on SaharaReporters tying him to alleged money-laundering on behalf of Nigeria's former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode.

Sowore says in the statement that police later presented with a petition --presumably from Fatodu-- against him for defamation. In the statement Sowore says police initially said he was going to be arraigned on unspecified criminal offenses on Thursday, January 12. However, when he arrived at the station the police proposed mediation between him and Fatodu.

In the statement Sowore says he rejected the offer and that he's now insisting that police conduct a criminal investigation since he was the victim of assault and attempted murder. Sowore also posted several messages on his Facebook including:

"Folks, It has come to my notice that the Lagos Commissioner Of Police is preparing phony charges against me. They plan to arraign in court and get me detained in prison. Again, as I mentioned in my last post, this attack on me was well planned by the police, Lekan Fatodu was just used as a smokescreen."

He also posted:  "Quick Update: I was at the Nigeria Police State CID in Lagos prepared to face "charges" the Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni had promised he'd file today, they came up empty handed and I am now back on the beat! I will give a detailed position of the other intrigues later."

In an e-mail message to The Black Star News, Sowore said, "This was a well planned attack. I was just lucky to fight off the attackers only to find out the police was part of deal."

Sowore is no longer in police custody.

Both Mr. Fatodu and Mr. Fani-Kayode did not respond to messages sent to them via their inbox on Facebook. The police spokesperson for the Nigerian Police Force, Lagos Zone, Olorunfemi Shem, also didn't respond to an e-mail message from The Black Star News seeking comment.

The transcript of Sowore's statement posted on SaharaReporter's YouTube channel follows:

"They wanted to use this as an opportunity to distract, destroy and even kill. This is not about me. This is about the right of everybody in Nigeria to freely report on news of corruption and also to be free to walk on the streets the next day. This guy is actually not alone. He was sent to attack me. To either halt or kill me but they did not anticipate that it would become a major problem and now that it has happened the police is now adopting a mediation role I have made it very clear that the police is not in the role of mediator.

"If they wanted to mediate they would have gone to mediate somewhere else, not in a police station. Now this is a criminal case of assault and attempted murder by someone who is not acting alone. This must be totally investigated both locally and internationally to determine how for example he knew I was in town and why and how he was trailing me and the decision to finally pounce on me where I was almost killed yesterday and also investigate the Commissioner of Police in Lagos...who when I reported this to him in his office he decided to pull out a petition from his table that was written yesterday and when he sent me over here they had sent the petition in another car 15 minutes before I arrived. Even the police officer who I met over here ...said he had never seen a petition travel so fast before in his life. So they were working in concert to ensure that I'm bogged down. I was informed that this morning they wanted to arraign me for certain criminal offenses I got here nobody is talking about that anymore. They are talking about mediation. So I came here prepared

"People tell me that I should not come. That if I come I would be killed. I would be incapacitated. I've said it that I cannot be on the run from criminals in this country. Nigeria cannot be rebranded the Federal Republic of criminals. This is my country and I will remain a Nigerian until maybe the country falls apart if it's so mismanaged. But as long as there is a country called Nigeria I will not even change my citizenship. I have lived in the U.S. for 17 years, 18 years by February that I left Nigeria. I have never changed my citizenship. I am a Nigerian citizen. I carry the Green passport and I suffer the indignities because of it but I call it deserving indignities.

"As to your question about where we fell out [referring to Ekan Fatodu his alleged assailant] everybody following me, who has been my friend, colleague and associate knows that about me that as a matter of principle the moment you are engaged in corruption you have crossed the line. We fell out because we found out that he was laundering money [the article was published on SaharaReporters linking Fatodu of laundering money on behalf of former Nigerian Aviation minister Femi Fani-Kayode]. We wrote the story about it in 2016 January and it shows to you that when it comes to matters of corruption I have no friends only foes. So every other story you'be heard is a red herring concocted by him and his backers. When they assaulted me yesterday and the police apprehended me and he claimed that he saw me, my car, running a red light. So you know I've been invited back to the police, you know, just talk to them again about this.

"I want to make it clear in case they decide otherwise that my position is that this case must be treated as a criminal case and it is the duty as the police to address criminality. It is not there job [mediation]. In some communities where they settle cases amicably under the table. Where lives and limbs are in danger. So that is my position. I will be back again, out if I am allowed out. 

 

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