The police in Lagos have arrested Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, following a brawl with a London-based Nigerian journalist. While details of the incident still remain sketchy, this newspaper has gathered that it occurred on Wednesday afternoon in Ikeja G.R.A, Lagos.
Mr. Sowore told sources that he was attacked by Lekan Fatodu, publisher of UK-based Check Out magazine over a story Sahara Reporters published about him last year.
But Mr. Fatodu posted a tweet saying he “just got Sowore Omoyele of Saharareporters arrested for criminal defamation and blackmail and threat to my life and career.”
Mr. Sowore said the brawl broke out shortly after he drove out of a restaurant situated along Isaac John Street.
“I went with a friend to have lunch in a restaurant and as we drove out of the place we got on Issac John Street,” Mr. Sowore said. “After driving for a few minutes, I slowed down by a construction site on the road and someone knocked on my window.”
Mr. Sowore said he immediately recognised Mr. Fatodu and wound down to greet him only to be physically attacked and dragged out of his vehicle.
“The construction workers and other people around moved closer to intervene and the police were called in,” he said.
The police took Mr. Sowore, Mr. Fatodu and others involved in the skirmish to Area “F” Command Headquarters also in Ikeja.
It was here that the Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said Mr. Sowore should be transferred to State Criminal Investigation Department in Panti, Yaba, Lagos.
“It is unfortunate that the commissioner will treat such a brutal attack against me this way,” Mr. Sowore said.
“The matter that was before him was only about the immediate threat to my life only for him to further endanger my life by asking them to send me to Panti.”
Dolapo Badmus, the police spokesperson in the state, said Mr. Sowore was sent to Panti based on a petition against him.
Mr. Badmus said the petition was filed by Mr. Fatodu and it involved criminal defamation, blackmail and threat to life.
“The commissioner received the petition yesterday and he immediately referred it to Panti for further investigation,” Ms. Badmus said. “That is why he was driven there for further investigation in his case.”
Ms. Badmus could not immediately say if or when Mr. Sowore will be arraigned before a court.
“The matter is still under investigation,” she said.
Mr. Sowore founded Sahara Reporters in 2006 to promote citizen journalism by encouraging everyday people to report stories about corruption, human rights abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria.
A story the platform published in January 2016 detailed how Mr. Fatodu allegedly stood as a front for a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, in the mismanagement of funds meant for the purchase of arms for the military.
Mr. Sowore said he believed Mr. Fatodu’s attack against him was “strictly because of the report and other numerous investigations of Sahara Reporters against him and his benefactors.”
Mr. Fani-Kayode is currently standing trial on allegations that he received funds from a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.