…Calls on Buhari Administration to Stem Rising Violations of Freedom of Expression …Condemns Widespread Impunity by Public Officials ..Asks for Travel Ban on Minister The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to mete out stern measures against the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Muhammed over the
…Calls on Buhari Administration to Stem Rising Violations of Freedom of Expression
…Condemns Widespread Impunity by Public Officials
..Asks for Travel Ban on Minister
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to mete out stern measures against the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Muhammed over the harassment and arbitrary arrest of a Journalist, Mr Rotimi Jolayemi (also known as Oba Akewi).
Mr Jolayemi was arrested on the orders of the Minister over a poem read during a radio programme Mr Mohammed considers critical of him.
HURIWA also asked the President Buhari-led administration to take immediate action to stem the rising tide of horrendous violations of the Freedoms of Expression and Information and to stop the rapidly shrinking democratic spaces in Nigeria in line with the Nigerian constitution.
It said specifically Section 22 of the constitution mandates the media to monitor the operations of all governmental and non-governmental systems in the country and to serve as the national vanguard and conscience.
The rights group said this brutal and atrocious act can only happen where there is widespread official impunity and anarchy, adding: “This feudalistic tendency violate everything that is associated with constitutional democracy and the rule of law and must therefore not be swept under the carpet by President Buhari if he truly wants any form of legacies to be bequeathed by his administration at the end of his final four-year tenure in 2023.”
HURIWA said reports indicate that the Journalist turned himself in to the Police, when the Minister ordered the arrest of his wife, Mrs. Dorcas Jolayemi, and two of his brothers, John and Joseph, who were all locked up for days and were tortured physically, emotionally and psychologically.
The rights group also said these crimes against humanity must never go unpunished promising to petition the governments of the United States of America; United Kingdom; Australia, Canada and Germany to pray for travel ban to be imposed on Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
HURIWA which asked the Minister to resign immediately or be blacklisted by Nigerian media also condemned the Kwara State Police Commissioner for being used to commit the horrendous human rights crimes of hostage taking because the reported unlawful detention of the two brothers and the wife in place of the Journalist, amounted to armed kidnapping which should be treated as such even as both the Minister of Information and the Police Commissioner who authorised the abduction of the duo should be arrested and prosecuted for alleged armed kidnapping and punished by the competent court of law.
“This is the elevation of the culture of impunity and criminality for officials of government to resort to self help measures against perceived opponent. This is a violation of the Section 15(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 which obliges the Nigerian government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power. We demand the immediate release of Journalist Rotimi and the payment of compensation for the arbitrary detention and illegal arrests of the Journalist and his siblings and biological Mother on the illegal order of the Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed.”
After 17 days in detention, the police has finally charged Mr Jolayemi, for acting in a manner that can cause ‘annoyance’ and ‘hatred’ for the Minister.
The development comes less than five days after Mohammed through his spokesman, Segun Adeyemi, denied being the mastermind behind the arrest of Mr Jolayemi, also vice-chairman, Freelance and Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria, Osun State chapter.
In the charge sheet marked, FHC/ABJ/CB/104/2020, the Police alleged that Jolayemi on April 14 shared an audio file in a WhatsApp group, which subsequently went viral.
In the charge sheet signed by the Prosecuting Counsel, Prosecution Section, Mr Joseph Offor, the Police said the act was in contravention of Section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes Act 2015.
The charge read, “That you, Jolayemi Oba Akewi, male, aged 43, on or about the 14th day of April 2020 at Osolo Compound, Ekan Nla, Kwara State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did send audio message through your Android phone device to a group WhatsApp platform known as ‘Ekan Sons and Daughters’ and which went viral immediately after it was posted for the purpose of causing annoyance, insult, hatred and ill will toward the current Minister of Information and Culture, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015.”
HURIWA also condemned the continuous detention of the Akwa Ibom-based Journalist, Mr Kufre Carter by the Department of States Services (DSS) despite court order granting him bail. It similarly condemned the continuous detention of the Abia State Lawyer, Mr Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna, by the Police and DSS on the orders of the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel.
The group said that Carter was arrested on April 27, 2020 for allegedly criticising the Akwa Ibom state Commissioner for Health, Dominic Ukpong, even as the DSS has refused to release the sports Journalist despite a court order from the state’s Magistrate Court.
HURIWA also recalled that Mr. Effiong, counsel to the detained Journalist, who confirmed that he was yet to be released despite perfecting his bail condition, added that DSS officials said his client will only be released from custody on the orders of Governor Udom Emmanuel just as the lawyer of the detained journalist said: “We have waited for the DSS in the State for over 24 hours for them to comply with the valid order of the court served on them on Friday, May 22, for the release of our client, since they have refused to obey the court, I am impelled to issue this press release.
“Our client, a Journalist and presenter with XL 106.9 FM Uyo, was arrested by the DSS on April 27, over a purported private phone conversation with an anonymous medical doctor which the State Government alleged castigated the Commissioner for Health, Dr Ukpong, over his poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While calling for the immediate freedom for the detained journalist, HURIWA condemned the arbitrary detention and illegal arrest in the first place of the Akwa Ibom-based journalist on the “nebulous and untenable legal ground of insulting the Commissioner of Health and we consider this detention as barbaric, primitive, illegal, unconstitutional and absolutely reprehensible.”
Also, the rights group, Amnesty International and other groups have called on the DSS to release Mr Carter from its custody.
The organisation said on May 23 on Twitter that Mr Carter is “unlawfully” detained on the order of the Akwa Ibom government.
The human rights group said lawyers and family have been denied access to the detained journalist. “We are calling on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him,” the group said.