Government officials in Nigeria say they are doing “everything possible” to ensure the release of singers Omah Lay and Tems who are being held by police in Uganda.
Ugandan police have accused the musicians, their manager and four others of breaching coronavirus rules when they held a concert on Saturday in the capital, 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.
As outrage spread across social media, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister tweeted that the government “was engaging with the Ugandan authorities at the “highest level”.
The head of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also tweeted that “tremendous diplomatic progress has been made and they will be back very very soon by Gods grace.”
Nigerian musicians and fans have tweeted in support of the detained singers, with the hashtag #freetemsandomah becoming the number one trend on Nigerian twitter on Tuesday.
“#FreeOmahLay #FreeTems This is so unfair,” tweeted Nigerian Afropop star, Tiwa Savage. Superstar Wizkid also called on Uganda to “free my people & bring them home safe!
Grammy-nominated star Burna Boy struck a more exasperated tone, referring to Uganda’s actions as “anarchy.”
“They should not be treated like this! [Ugandan Police]?! They were invited for a show organized by your citizens, granted visas, tickets were sold publicly on the WORLD WIDE WEB! This anarchy should not be targeted at the artists!” Burna said.
Some Nigerians have even called for top stars to boycott the MTV Africa Music Awards, which is set to be held in Kampala next year after a four-year hiatus.
Omah Lay has repeatedly questioned the rationale behind his continued imprisonment, insinuating in a flurry of tweets Monday that he had been “set up.”
“Is there something bigger at play in Uganda? Why do I have to take the fall for it???” the star tweeted.
Uganda’s opposition presidential candidate and music star Bobi Wine 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”.
Uganda’s government has suspended social gatherings, including, controversially, election campaign rallies to limit the spread of the virus. Despite calls for the musicians’ release, Ugandan police have insisted that the laws of their country must be obeyed.