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Nigerian police detain prominent musician for questioning after a young star's death

People take part in a protest on Sept. 21 in Lagos, Nigeria, to demand justice following the death of Afrobeats star Mohbad.
Sunday Alamba
/
AP
People take part in a protest on Sept. 21 in Lagos, Nigeria, to demand justice following the death of Afrobeats star Mohbad.

LAGOS, Nigeria — Naira Marley, one of the biggest music figures in Africa, is being held in police custody in Lagos, after the death of a rising Nigerian music star previously signed to his label. That star,Mohbad,died Sept. 12 in a Lagos hospital at age 27.

He was buried the following day, leading to an outpouring of grief and protests by thousands of fans demanding justice after his untimely death.

The case has brought focus on alleged abuse by powerful figures within Nigeria's multimillion-dollar Afrobeats music industry.

Mohbad, who was born in Lagos and whose real name was Ilerioluwa Aloba, was beloved for hits like "Peace" and "Feel Good." His cause of death has not been confirmed, leading to public suspicion and outrage.

Police took Marley into custody in Lagos on Tuesday, said Ben Hundeyin, a spokesperson for the police. On the same day, Marley posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he intended to meet police to assist in the investigation, saying, "I'll be meeting with the police with hopes for the truth to be uncovered and for justice to prevail."

A close associate of Marley known as Sam Larry was earlier taken into custody, on Sept. 29.

People hold candles and a flare during a protest at a park in Lagos, Nigeria, on Sept. 21, to demand justice after Mohbad's death.
Sunday Alamba / AP
/
AP
People hold candles and a flare during a protest at a park in Lagos, Nigeria, on Sept. 21, to demand justice after Mohbad's death.

On Wednesday, a court in Lagos granted the police 21 days to hold them in custody. Marley is now being questioned by police, who have not given further details on the case.

An unnamed nurse has also been arrested, police spokesperson Hundeyin said.

But outrage has been largely directed atMarley, the boss of Mohbad's former label, for alleged abuse against Mohbad before he died.

A year ago, Mohbad left Marley's Marlian Records label. Following his departure, Mohbad claimed he suffered a campaign of abuse and attempts on his life by figures from the label, led by Marley.

Last October, Mohbad posted a videoon Twitter, now X, of blood oozing from a wound on his shoulder and claimed he was attacked by Marley and others from the music label for wanting to leave. In August, he said Marley's label had pressured promoters to cancel his shows.

Marley has denied all the allegations and said in a statement onsocial medialast month he was "shattered" by news of Mohbad's death. Sam Larry has also denied any involvement.

Marley is an ambassador for the country's anti-drug agency and a supporter of Lagos governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Marley campaigned in elections for Sanwo-Olu in February. Sanwo-Olu said anyone found guilty of Mohbad's death would face justice and called for witnesses to come forward. He has not yet reacted publicly to Marley's detention by police.

Days of anger following Mohbad's death culminated in protests across the country last month. The protests included some radio stations in Nigeria pulling Marley's music from their airwaves.

Tunde Olawuwo, station manager for Splash FM Ibadan, one of the stations that has stopped playing Marley's songs, said the move by police to question Marley was a positive step but more needed to be done.

"Because it can only mean the police are listening to the demands people are making, but what we want and hope for is a fair investigation. One that is open and transparent," he said.

Police have exhumed Mohbad's body and carried out an autopsy, but the results have not yet been released. Police have not responded to NPR's questions on the autopsy.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emmanuel Akinwotu, Olivia Ndubuisi