By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Despite the release from illegal custody of Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and former security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, Nigeria’s record of human rights abuse remains blighted with a long list of detained individuals still languishing in cells, MUDIAGA AFFE writes.
The release of the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and a former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd.) may have sparked further questions on why other detainees are still being held in gulags across the country without justifiable reasons.
One case that comes to mind is that of the leader of the Islamic Nation in Nigeria, Ibrahim El- Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, who were arrested in December 2015 during a military operation in Zaria, Kaduna State. They had been granted several bails but the DSS had refused to comply.
Another case is that of Agba Jalingo, a journalist and Publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online news platform. He was arrested for the alleged questioning of N500m microfinance bank grant by the Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade. He had been detained since August 22, 2019, and remanded at the correctional centre in Calabar after being charged for treason without any progress in his trial.
His wife, Violet has since August 22, 2019, lived in despair with little or no hope that her husband would be released anytime soon because the Cross River State Government had allegedly denied knowledge of her husband’s arrest.
Jalingo was allegedly arrested in Lagos by policemen from Cross River State who claimed that he was a kidnap suspect.
However, his wife lamented that the detention of her husband had nothing to do with the claims by the police that came to arrest him in Lagos.
She said, “I am not happy about this whole thing because it has not been easy for me. I am only pleading to the government of Governor Ben Ayade to release my husband. Ayade has been playing ostrich that it is the Federal Government that has been holding my husband; meanwhile, it is the governor that is holding him.
“He was hiding under the Sowore case to perpetuate this. If it was the Federal Government that was holding him, they would have released him now. There is no way Jalingo would be held in Cross River if he had issues with the Federal Government, he would have been taken to Abuja just like others. So, Ben Ayade and his aides have been playing hide and seek with my husband’s freedom.
“My husband did not do anything bad, he only asked the governor to be accountable and I do not think that question is too much as a journalist and citizen of the state. My husband was kidnapped from Lagos and kept in Calabar. He has been in the state custody for over four months. During this Yuletide season, we would have had more time to bond with the family but right now, they have denied me of that.”
The Secretary, Association of Cross River Online Journalists, Jeremiah Archibong, who threw more light on Jalingo’s arrest, said it was sad that a journalist who simply asked a state government to be accountable was suddenly being charged for terrorism and attempt to topple the state government.
“I feel sad because it is disheartening to know that a case like this can go on and on without any headway. How can a government deny knowledge of this when on August 16, 2019, he received a letter from the Police in the state inviting him for an explanation on August 19. He was in Lagos engaged in other things but explained to them that the August 19 date was not feasible.
“However, there was an agreement reached, but before the agreed date, he was arrested on August 22. The manner he was arrested was worrisome because the police team they sent from Cross River to Lagos to arrest him (Jalingo) alleged that he was being arrested as a kidnap suspect. They told him in the presence of his wife that he was a kidnapper who was wanted in Calabar.
“They took him from Lagos to Calabar on road with handcuffs on his hands and chains in his legs. On August 28, the state microfinance bank filed a charge against him (Jalingo) in a Cross River State High Court. It clearly showed that the state government had a hand in his arrest and detention. The state government has consistently denied knowledge of his arrest and detention, claiming that it was the Federal Government that arrested him.
“At the federal level, Agba Jalingo’s name has never been mentioned. When Jalingo was brought to Calabar under police custody, for several weeks he was chained to a refrigerator. He was also chained on the leg. The judge handling the matter denied him bail. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria who was handling the case begged the judge to release Jalingo to him, the judge also turned the request down.
“Look at how he is constantly chained and brought to the court on the claims that it is a Federal Government matter but we have always known that the Federal Government has nothing to do with the matter. Agba Jalingo’s sin was his story that asked the state government to explain how N500m that was purportedly allocated to the microfinance bank was disbursed. Suddenly he is being charged for terrorism and an attempt to topple the state government. This is madness,” he explained.
The above scenario might be a representation of the situation of many detainees in the custody of other security agencies. The wailings of several other unsung detainees have continued to attract public outcry with an urgent call on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to immediately release them unconditionally.
A once detained Niger Delta Ijaw activist, whose identity was not disclosed, said he met over 50 Ijaw and Niger Delta youth, numerous Boko Haram suspects and members of the Independent People of Biafra secessionist group, who had been kept and routinely tortured at the DSS headquarters in Abuja without being tried.
A list of detainees made available to the National Human Rights Commission by Mr Femi Falana, indicated that at least over 70 detainees were being held by the Nigerian Navy without trial. Falana had painstakingly listed where the detainees were held.
The inexhaustible list of detainees includes Michael Ovie; Simon Onyisike; Umoren Daniel; James Archibong; Graham Brown; Ifeanyi Osadinizu; Matthew Epiagolo; Taiwo Ayodele; Sunday Ojo; Austin Omonisa; Timothy Ajayi; Adeleke Adewale; Onoja Reuben; Pius Paul; Peter Pulle; Ogunmoyero Oluwaseun; Innocent Sunday; Lejoro Friday; Hamza Yakubu; and Segun Yusuf.
Others include Adebayo Mayoma; Godswill Umoh; Edu Fidelis; Richard David; Daniel Harrison; Asaiki Okeoghene; Omogoye Bolaji; Victor Uchendu; Oloyede Ademola; Emomotimi Watchman; Ganabel Sixtus; Olajide Enigbewo; Kehinde Labinjo; Akpoviri Ebbah; Sikiru Adekoya; Patrick Ogerugba; Emmanuel Oputa; Kingsley Terry; Melvin Jack; Paul Obi; Matthew Pius, and Grace Inyang, among many others.
In the memo addressed to the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu (Esq), in August 2019, Falana had requested the release of Nigerian citizens from the illegal custody of the Nigerian Navy.
The memo stated in part, “We have also confirmed, to our utter dismay, that 57 people are being detained in crowded cells at the NNS Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos while 10 others are incarcerated inside a vessel at Marina, Lagos.
“Even though the 67 people have been accused of committing undisclosed criminal offences, they have been detained by the Nigerian Navy for periods ranging from three months to 18 months without any remand order issued by a Magistrate Court or any judge in Nigeria.”
Speaking on the continued detention of El-Zakzaky and his wife, President, Media Forum of IMN, Ibrahim Musa, said they were not happy that their leader was not released alongside Sowore and Dasuki.
Musa said there was an existing court order that granted El-Zakzaky and his wife bail, urging the Buhari’s regime to respect the order.
“We were not happy with the non-release of our leader alongside Sowore and Dasuki because the President said he has started implementing the court orders. We wish to remind the Federal Government that there is still a valid court order that freed our leader delivered by the Federal High Court in Abuja since 2016.
“So, if they are very serious about the implementation of court orders, they should go ahead and release our leader as well. Nonetheless, we congratulate Sowore and Dasuki for getting their freedom back from the Federal Government.
“The family members are disappointed that their father is still being held because he is sick as confirmed by medical doctors. A court order was given that he should be flown abroad for medical treatment but it was scuttled. Judging from his health condition, the Federal Government should take the step of releasing him,” he added.
The Executive Director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said it was wrong for any state actor to detain any suspect without valid trial, adding that the rule of law should be allowed to take its course.
He, therefore, charged lawyers handling cases for clients whose rights were being trampled on to speak up and make it a public matter.
“No matter who is having grudges with the law, the rule of law must be allowed to take its normal course. When I say normal course, it means that whatever the court says in respect to any person that has been charged, whether granted bail or discharged finally, such person must be allowed to have his freedom.
“At some point, it will be depended on the lawyers to suspects who suffer illegal detention to let the Nigerian public know the development in the court proceedings so that Nigerians will take it up just as they have taken the case of Sowore and Dasuki so that we will not have unfair processes.
“If you have a grudge with the law, the rule of law permits you to defend yourself in the court, nobody has the right to detain anybody under any guise more than 24 or 48 hours maximum as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mumuni said.
But the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Thursday, said the release of El-Zakzaky could only be decided by the Kaduna State Government, saying the cleric was being tried under the Kaduna State law and not under federal law.
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