Yele Sowore Detained By Nigerian Government In August 2019 For Speaking Out Against Corruption, Human Rights Violations

HAWORTH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A local family has been fighting for more than 400 days to bring home to New Jersey a husband and father of two.

The journalist was jailed in his native Nigeria over a year ago, and as CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports, the family is desperate for lawmakers and the state department to help.

A brother and sister posed for their first day of school picture, but behind the smiles, there is sadness.

“Four hundred and two days without your dad is, it’s a long time,” mother Opeyemi Sowore said.

Sowore has been working and raising the kids alone after her husband, Yele, was detained by the Nigerian government just over a year ago now.

“He’s both stuck there and he is in danger,” Sowore said.

The journalist, who owns the publication Sahara Reporters, was jailed for speaking out against corruption and human rights violations after allegedly organizing a pro-democracy protest in Nigeria last August.

He was released on bail back on Christmas Eve, but ongoing court delays have prevented him from returning home to Haworth.

“He is under city arrest, so he cannot leave the city of Abuja,” Sowore said.

Both Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Sen. Bob Menendez have written letters to Nigerian officials, urging cooperation.

This week, Menendez blasted that country for the continued postponements, saying, “Nigeria’s international reputation as a leading democracy in Africa is at stake.”

Loved ones are counting on lawmakers to put pressure on the federal government to help bring Yele home. A state department spokesperson would only say the U.S. Mission in Nigeria is following the case and the state department is in contact with family members here.

But so far, it hasn’t brought Yele back to his home, where yellow ribbons are tied to trees to show the community is concerned and waiting.

“Last time we spoke, you said you were still hopeful he would be coming home. Do you still have that same hope?” Layton asked Opeyemi Sowore.

“I do. I’m still hopeful. I have to remain hopeful, that’s the way I continue to go from day to day,” Sowore said.

It’s that strength that will keep her kids smiling even on the hardest of days without their dad.

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