The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, says Nigerian singers, Temilade Openiyi, popularly known as Tems and Stanley Omah Didia, should not be blamed for their ordeal in Uganda.
She disclosed this on Friday during an interview on Channels Television’s Hard Copy in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
“Some people said they committed a crime. In this case, I am sure if they had known, they would not have gone,” she said.
“Ignorance is not an excuse, they listened to the organisers. I don’t think we can blame them for what happened.”
For the NIDCOM chief, the release of the artistes followed diplomatic engagements between the Nigerian government and the Ugandan authorities.
She explained that when the Federal Government got wind of their arrest, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, contacted his counterpart in Uganda to fast-track their release.
Similarly, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration also got in touch with the Uganda High Commissioner to Nigeria, Nelson Ocheger, who she said was not in the country at the time of their arrest.
To guard against such a recurrence, Dabiri-Erewa, advised stars and other citizens to always notify the Nigerian Embassy of their presence abroad when out of the country.
According to her, the move is necessary because if the two artistes had registered their presence in the Nigerian High Commission in Uganda, they wouldn’t have been in trouble.
“Anybody that travels abroad, have faith in the mission. If the Nigerian mission had known that two of our biggest artistes were in town and they just made their presence known, maybe that would not have happened.
“Anytime you travel, especially there are super stars. Let the mission know that you are there. We get the response that, ‘oh they don’t listen to us.’ But let them know,” she added.
Her remarks come three days after the Ugandan authorities dropped the charges against the popular musicians, after spending three days in detention.
The duo were arrested on December 12 and charged before a Chief Magistrates Court in Makindye for breaching the country’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Musicians, Stanley Didia (Omah Lay) and Temilade Openiyi (Tems) have returned to Nigeria after their arrest in Uganda. A third person, Muyiwa Ayoniyi, who was among the arrested, has also returned.
Their return was disclosed by the official handle of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri, on Twitter.
“Stanley Omah Didia (@Omah_Lay), Temilade Openiyi (@temsbaby), Muyiwa Ayoniyi and others just landed at the MMIA Lagos from Uganda via Ethiopia Airline at about 12:35 pm local time,” the official wrote.
The artistes were arrested in Uganda for violating COVID-19 protocols during a concert in Kampala. The Ugandan government has dropped the charges brought us against the pair alongside their manager.
This arrest sparked angry reactions on Twitter, as celebrities and Nigerians, in general, called for the quick release of the singers, with various hashtags including #FreeTemsandOmahLay, #FreeTems and #FreeOmahLay trending for a period of time.
After almost three days in detention, Ugandan authorities have dropped the charges against Nigerian singers, Temilade Openiyi, populalrly known as Tems and Stanley Omah Didia, popularly known as Omah Lay.
A Release Order dated December 15, said the charges against both artists had been withdrawn and therefore, they should be released forthwith “unless held on other charges”.
See the Release Order Below.
The fast-rising stars were arrested on Monday after performing at a show and flouting COVID-19 guidelines.
Thereafter, they were arraigned at a court in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.
A tweet by the Ugandan Police Force had said they will remain in custody till Wednesday, December 16.
Their arrest was met with outrage, especially on social media, by many fans and Nigerians, who demanded their immediate release.
The situation was also a subject of debate as many believe it was beyond flouting the country’s COVID-19 guidelines – quickly sparking the hashtags #FreeTems, #FreeOmahLay.
Their release came shortly after the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, said the Nigerian government was engaging the Ugandan Authorities at the highest level to ensure their release.
The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri- Erewa, had also, earlier in the day, assured Nigerians that all was being done to secure their release after she met with two members of both artistes’ record labels.
“I received Marshall and Valentine, working with @Omah_Lay and Tem’s record label. The good news is that they will soon be back,” she tweeted.
Government officials say “everything possible” is being done to ensure the release of two musicians, Omah Lay and Tems, being held by the police in Uganda.
The Ugandan authorities say the singers, their manager, and four others had risked the spread of COVID-19 by holding a concert on Saturday in Kampala.
They were charged on Monday for “negligently doing acts likely to spread an infectious disease” and police say they will be detained until Wednesday when they are expected to be re-arraigned in court.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, tweeted that the government was engaging with the Ugandan authorities at the highest level, while the head of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, tweeted that “tremendous diplomatic progress has been made and they will be back [very very ] soon by Gods grace.”
Thank you. Tremendous diplomatic progress has been made and they will be back v v soon by Gods grace . https://t.co/wMRzQeBraP
Dabiri-Erewa also replied to one of the detained singer’s tweet asking why he is being held by the police, she replied, “Everything possible is being done to get you out”.
Music star Bobi Wine has expressed support for the musicians, tweeting that there was “absolutely no reason why our brothers should still be detained yet their concert was under police watch”.
There is no rule of law in Uganda. This country runs on orders from a small circle of oppressors who dispense orders that are implemented without question. There's absolutely no reason why our brothers should still be detained yet their concert was under police watch #FreeOmahLayhttps://t.co/4AjP1hTuMj
A Ugandan court on Friday charged opposition leader Bobi Wine over an election rally which allegedly flouted Covid-19 rules, then freed him on bail, after his detention sparked violence that left 37 dead.
Wine was charged with “doing an act likely to spread infectious diseases contrary to the penal code and rules of the public health on Covid-19,” said judiciary spokesman Solomon Muyita.
Two days of protests were sparked by Wine’s arrest on Wednesday ahead of a political rally in the run-up to the January 14 election, in which he is seen as the main challenger to President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking to extend his 36-year rule.
Wine, a musician-turned-politician, was charged on Friday with infringing Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings.
“I was violently arrested, tortured while in detention, threatened with death but this did not break my resolve,” Wine told AFP after his release.
“I promise the people of Uganda that whatever the situation I will not abandon them on a journey we started together, we must finish it together and that’s when we have removed a dictator from power,” he said, referring to Museveni.
In Kampala, drivers blared their horns and radio stations played Wine’s hits after news of his release came through.
Dozens died and hundreds were arrested this week as tyres were burned and police responded to hurled rocks with teargas, rubber bullets and live rounds in the capital Kampala and other towns.
There was a heavy police and army presence in Kampala with roadblocks and security checks.
“We have recorded so far 37 dead bodies, those related to the protests which started Wednesday,” police health director Moses Byaruhanga told AFP, adding that the victims had died of wounds and suffocation.
Addressing a press conference Friday, police spokesman Fred Enanga claimed the protests were “part of a loosely coordinated campaign” and not spontaneous.
He said that bows and arrows, as well as bottles, tyres and fuel for incendiary devices had been found.
“All indicators reveal these were not just impromptu actions,” he said, adding that 375 people had so far been arrested.
‘Weaponising’ the pandemic
Wine is due to appear in court again on December 18.
According to the charge sheet, seen by AFP, Wine is accused of “an act which he knew or had reason to believe was likely to spread the infection of Covid-19.”
Human Rights Watch accuses Uganda of seeking to “weaponise” pandemic restrictions, using rules on gatherings to stop political rallies.
“The authorities have consistently used Covid-19 guidelines as an excuse for violent repression of the opposition rather than to safeguard the democratic playing field for free and fair elections,” said Africa researcher Oryem Nyeko.
The violence has raised fears and drawn condemnation.
“The increasing spate of violence so early in the campaign season does not bode well for the weeks to come before the elections,” said Nyeko.
The rights group urged security forces to “respect the rights of people to peacefully protest”.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric this week called for Wine’s release, while the US embassy in Kampala said it deplored the violence and extended its sympathy to the victims and their families.
Youth vs the old guard
Wine, a 38-year-old popstar, has become a lightning rod for opposition to Museveni, who is seeking a sixth term.
Many young Ugandans see Wine as their champion in a country mired in poverty and youth unemployment.
Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel who seized power in 1986, is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
Wine has been repeatedly arrested, most recently on November 3 after he filed his candidacy for the elections, his concerts are routinely banned and his public rallies broken up with teargas.
Other opposition candidates have also been detained and had their rallies broken up by security forces who claim the gatherings contravene Covid-19 restrictions.
However, Museveni’s own rallies have gone ahead unimpeded.
Sixteen people have been killed in two days of violent clashes between Ugandan security forces and supporters of detained opposition leader Bobi Wine, police said Thursday, as tensions flared two months before a presidential election.
Ugandan security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets at angry protesters who set fires, barricaded roads and looted stores in the capital Kampala, as calls mounted for calm ahead of the January 14 elections.
The popstar-turned-presidential candidate Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was still in detention after being arrested on Wednesday for allegedly violating coronavirus measures at his rallies, over the large crowds attending.
“The death toll is now 16, with 45 injuries, some serious injuries,” Kampala police chief Moses Kafeero told AFP, without giving details of those killed.
“About 350 people have been arrested for participating in violent acts including looting, destruction of property, traffic disruption, theft and robberies during the riots,” he added.
Protests kicked off on Wednesday when police said seven were killed, after Wine’s detention ahead of a rally. Wine is considered the main challenger to veteran President Yoweri Museveni who is seeking a sixth term in power.
Pockets of protests continued throughout the day in Kampala and other major towns, with youths barricading roads, starting fires and engaging in running battles with police who lobbed tear gas and fired rubber bullets at protesters, and in some cases, fired live bullets.
– Gunshot wounds –
The Red Cross said late Wednesday it had treated dozens of injured following “scuffles involving the police and the rioting masses”, including 11 people for gunshot wounds.
While the military and police maintained a heavy presence, by the evening the situation had deteriorated with robberies taking place and shops being looted.
An AFP journalist saw hooded men stopping vehicles in a suburb of Kampala, and robbing passengers before police opened fire on the perpetrators.
“My phone, money and handbag has been taken,” said 42-year-old Flavia Namutebi, a Kampala businesswoman who was in a taxi that was robbed.
“They said they want money to bail out Bobi Wine,” she said.
Another man identified as Ivan Kakawa, 29, a shoe seller, told AFP, “the men beat me and demanded I give them money.”
Uganda’s judiciary issued a statement saying a courthouse in the central town of Wobulenzi, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Kampala had been vandalised by protesters.
– The old vs the new –
Wine, 38, has long been a thorn in Museveni’s side, attracting a widespread following through catchy pop songs about social justice and corruption.
Many young Ugandans see him as their champion in a country mired in poverty and youth unemployment.
Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel who seized power in 1986, is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
Wine has been repeatedly arrested — most recently on November 3 after he filed his candidacy for the elections — his concerts are routinely banned and his public rallies broken up with teargas.
In New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Thursday called for Wine’s release.
“We call for the immediate release of the detained opposition leaders, including Bobi Wine, and it’s important that security forces act in a way that respects human rights principles and the rule of law in dealing with protesters.”
The US embassy published a tweet saying it deplored the violence and extended its sympathy to the victims and their families.
“We urge all parties to renounce violence, undertake good-faith measures to reduce tensions, and respect fundamental freedoms,” it said.
Patrick Oboi Amuriat, the candidate with the Forum for Democratic Change, was also detained on Wednesday but was subsequently released.
“I can say am out of police cells but not free as the police can arrest me any time as they have been doing,” he told AFP.
He said his party was reviewing whether to continue their campaign or not.
Two other presidential candidates, Henry Tumukunde and Gregory Mugisha Muntu, have called off their campaigns until Uganda’s electoral body takes action over what they called police brutality against opposition candidates.
Museveni made no immediate comment on the protests, and held a rally in the northeastern town of Karamoja.
Ugandan security forces detained pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine on Wednesday during a raid of the presidential aspirant’s offices in the capital Kampala, his lawyer said.
Wine, an opposition MP whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has previously been arrested numerous times as he has rattled the ruling party of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the East African nation since 1986.
Wine’s lawyer Anthony Wameli said his client was seized on Wednesday at the offices of his opposition party, the National Unity Platform.
“The police and the army raided the office of NUP, sealed off the premises and all the roads leading to the place before detaining Bobi Wine and other party officials,” Wameli told AFP.
“This is despicable and an attack on democracy by the partisan police and the army,” he said. The reason for the raid was unknown but “politics cannot be ruled out”, he added.
Earlier in the day, Wine tweeted that the police and military had “broken into offices and taken away valuable documents”.
“The partisanship of security agencies ahead of the election is stinking,” he said, adding that “some comrades have been injured”.
Uganda police spokesman Patrick Onyango confirmed there was “an ongoing operation at NUP offices”.
“Our officers have deployed at the premises. Details of the operation will be given later,” he added, refusing to comment on the reports that Wine had been detained.
The media was kept away from the NUP’s offices and surrounding streets on Wednesday, but armed officers could be seen through the window, according to an AFP journalist.
Wine, 38, has become a popular figure among the youth in a country where the median age is less than 16.
After nearly a quarter century in power, the 76-year-old Museveni is the only president most have known.
Wine, nicknamed the “Ghetto President”, announced last year he would challenge Museveni in 2021’s presidential election.
But since becoming an MP in 2017, he has been routinely arrested and put under house arrest, his concerts banned and public rallies dispersed with teargas.
Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, had the constitution amended for a second time to allow him to run a sixth time in 2021.
A huge fire has destroyed part of the main building of Uganda’s prestigious Makerere University, one of Africa’s oldest, police said Sunday.
“The fire is believed to have started from the roof spreading to floors that house both records and finance departments,” said Kampala deputy police spokesman Luke Oweyesigire.
“A lot of property has been destroyed. Investigations are ongoing to ascertain the cause of the fire,” which started around 1 am (2200 GMT).
“It is a very dark morning for Makerere University. Our iconic Main Administration Building caught fire and the destruction is unbelievable,” tweeted Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, the institution’s vice-chancellor.
Nawangwe pledged everything would be done to “restore the building to its historic state in the shortest time possible” as the university tweeted video footage of flamed engulfing the building.
Makerere was established in 1922 as a humble technical school, but today is one of Africa’s oldest and most prestigious English universities.
Built between 1938 and 1941, the university today has 35,000 students and 3,000 postgraduates.
Tanzania and Uganda signed an agreement Sunday to commence construction on a 1,445-kilometre (900 mile) oil pipeline through East Africa that conservation groups say threatens livelihoods and fragile ecosytems.
The project focuses on oilfields in landlocked Uganda discovered in 2006 and proposes pumping the crude to the coast via a pipeline across Tanzania at an estimated cost of $3.5 billion.
The multi-national plan is led by French petroleum giant Total in partnership with China’s CNOOC and struggling British group Tullow Oil, which is seeking to finalise selling its stake in the venture.
“This is a very crucial project for our people,” said Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who signed the agreement paving the way for the pipeline in his home town of Chato alongside his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.
“Our signing today is a crucial step towards implementing the project which will not only create jobs, but also promote cooperation within the region, and stimulate economic development in areas the pipeline crosses.”
Work is scheduled to start by the end of the year on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline to exploit oil discovered near Lake Albert discovered in 2006. Reserves in the area are conservatively estimated at some 1.7 billion barrels.
“We want our people to work fast and start this project,” said Museveni at the signing ceremony.
After years of talks discussing the relative merits of different routes out to the Indian Ocean, Uganda announced in 2016 it would run the pipeline through Tanzania, not Kenya.
The enormous pipeline will run south of Lake Victoria to the port of Tanga near the Kenyan border.
Last week, a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) based on studies with Oxfam said the project would affect more than 12,000 families and communities had no idea if their land would be lost.
“After nearly two decades of oil exploration, many communities fear the worst is yet to come,” wrote Rashid Bunya of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, one of the NGOs that helped compile the reports based on two years of impact studies.
Critics say the project will affect delicate ecosystems that host rich sources of biodiversity. In Uganda, the drilling is located in several natural reserves, one of which extends to Murchison Falls, the country’s largest national park.
Tanzania says the project will create 10,000 jobs and that more than 90,000 people would be compensated to pave the way for the pipeline.
A total of 117 Nigerians stranded in three East African countries as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have returned home.
They were brought back to the country on Sunday from Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The airplane which evacuated the returnees from the three East African countries touched down at about 3am at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
A Nigerian airline, Azman Air, which conducted the evacuation exercise, announced the arrival of the returnees in an early-morning tweet.
Evacuation Update: A Total of 117 Passengers evacuated from 3 African Countries #Rwanda#Tanzania & #Uganda by @AzmanAir safely arrived at International Wing of MMA Lagos 2nd August 2020 around 03:00hrs
In line with the guidelines of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on evacuation, the returnees are expected to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
At the end of the isolation period, they are also expected to take another test to ascertain their COVID-19 status before reuniting with the society.
US Evacuees Now 1,430
Their return to the country came barely a day after the Nigeria Government evacuated 300 more Nigerians stranded in the United States.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in a tweet on Saturday, confirmed that a total of 300 citizens were brought back to the country.
According to the agency, the evacuation of the new set of returnees who also arrived at the international airport in Lagos via Ethiopian Airlines is the fifth from the US since the government began the exercise.
All the returnees had tested negative to COVID-19 before boarding the flight and would also observe the mandatory 14-day self-isolation as directed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
The latest evacuation brings to 1,430 the total number of Nigerians who returned from the US.
Highpoints of the arrival of the stranded Nigerians from the three East African countries are captured in the photos below:
Uganda’s election commission on Tuesday published a roadmap for presidential and legislative elections in early 2021, assuaging fears the coronavirus pandemic would force a delay.
But a plan to ban rallies and gatherings during the campaign drew a rebuke from a leading opposition politician, who said it was designed to favour longtime President Yoweri Museveni.
A calendar posted on the commission’s Twitter account Tuesday called for voting to take place between January 10 and February 8 next year, with “exact polling dates to be appointed in due course”.
That timeline is in line with the constitution.
In an interview with a private television station last month, Museveni, in power since 1986, had seemed to raise the possibility of a delay, saying it would be “madness to continue with elections when the virus is around”.
Uganda has officially recorded 724 COVID-19 cases and no deaths.
“The elections will go ahead as planned. This will be early January and February next year,” Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, the election commission chairman, told AFP Tuesday.
“There were fears that the elections will be postponed due to COVID-19, but the constitution demands that we must hold the polls at a specific time and we can’t do away with that,” he said.
But Mugenyi also said there would be “no mass rallies and public gatherings” and that candidates would “use the media such as radios and TVs to campaign”.
Opposition leader Bobi Wine, a popular singer whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said those rules would place an undue burden on opposition politicians who struggle to secure media access.
“The roadmap makes it harder for opposition voices to be heard,” Wine told AFP.
“Whenever we show up at radio stations, we are stopped by the police from going on air. The same thing will happen this time and the airwaves will be used by Museveni and his supporters to campaign,” he said.
Wine, who has been subject to repeated arrests, is expected to run against Museveni, who would be seeking a sixth term.