…Seeks respect for citizens’ digital rights
…Demands that Nigeria Police allow detained Journalist access to his family
By Chimezie Godfrey
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has reiterated call for citizens’ digital rights to be respected and the need for the security agencies to end the continued unlawful detention of citizens.
This is contained in a statement signed by Ali Sabo, Program Officer, Digital Rights, made available to the press on Friday.
According to the statement, CITAD decried the arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens for exercising their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
It stressed that these acts by the Nigerian security agencies are contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, adding that if not checked would plunge the country into a state of anarchy.
The statement reads in part:”Gentlemen of the press, I would like to on behalf of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) welcome you to this urgent and important press conference being organized to draw the attention of the Nigerian security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police force for its continued arbitrary arrest and detention of the citizens for exercising their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“It is important to state here clearly that section (IV) sub section (c) of the Nigerian constitutions has prohibits any security agency from unlawful arrest, incarceration or detention of the citizens without following due process. Gentlemen of the press what we are witnessing today in Nigeria is clearly contrary to what the Nigerian constitution has provided and these acts by the Nigerian security agencies if not checked and addressed will flung the country into anarchy and will negate the principles of democracy which is being practiced in Nigeria enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended.
“Gentlemen of the press, you will remember that in the months of November and December we did organize similar press conferences during which we drew the attention of the Nigerian authority about the negative implications of these arbitrary arrests and detentions of the citizens to the country’s image in the comity of nations and to our young democracy. It is a well-known fact that criticism is part and parcel of any democracy and it is one of the cardinal pillars through which democracy is being build, but this government in many occasions has displayed arrogance, impunity and lack of tolerance where at any slight instances has ordered the arrest of the citizens for excising their fundamental human rights.
“Gentlemen of the press, you may recall that in the month of November, 2022, the Nigeria Police on the orders of the wife of the president arrested and detained a 500 level student of Federal University, Dutse, Aminu Adamu for merely excising his rights online. He was held for days without being allowed access to his family or his lawyers. Also on the 11th of December, 2022, a minor named Umar Garba was arrested in Nguru Local Government Area, Yobe State over an alleged defamation of character of the Yobe State Governor, Maimala Buni. The boy was held captive by the Nigeria Police for more than two weeks without a court order or any arrest warrant. Similarly, the boy was not taken to court.
“These impunity being excised by the Nigerian politicians has transformed to another level to the extent that citizens are being deprived their fundamental human rights to speak about things that concern them and their country and interrogate their representatives without being harassed by the security agencies.
“These cases have continued to grow spontaneously as many cases are being reported every day and in every corner of the country which is worrisome and threat to our democracy.”
CITAD pointed out that another and more recent case that they have received was the arrest and detention of Yau Saeed, a Freelance Journalist and founder of Y2S Online Television based in Yola that was arrested by the Nigeria Police, FCT Command by the order of Senator Elisha Ishiaku Abbo, Senator representing Adamawa North for excising his rights as citizen and journalist since 27th of December, 2022.
It lamented that the most unfortunate thing is that the Nigeria Police has refused the detained journalist access to his wife, lawyers and family.
“These arbitrary arrests of the citizens are against the Nigerian constitution and international covenant of human and people’s rights. Section IV of the Nigerian Constitution has clearly stated that:
“Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with section (1) (C) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within reasonable time. The expression of reasonable time under this section means:
a. In case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometres, a period of one day; and in any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable.
“It is significant to know that allowing citizens to express themselves and constructively criticize leaders are cardinal to democracy and no democracy can grow where those at the helm of the affairs of the country are using the country’s security agencies to clamp down on dissents and activists.
“The collusion between security agencies and politicians to harass and intimidate citizens against freely expressing their opinions is a serious attack to our democracy. Democracy strives by the maintenance of a free market of opinions and availability of information that allow citizens to make informed choices in exercising their civic responsibility. When journalists are seized, detained, and tortured because they have exposed their dirty underbelly of some politicians, we are trampling on the foundation on which our democratic experiment is sitting.
“We must also not forget that it was the brazen police brutality that led to the EndSARS protest with all its attendance consequences to the nation. We cannot afford to continue to repeat this sad experience. Such illegal and unconstitutional acts and conduct by police and security agencies bread the ground and context for anarchy to set in which is of not good to anybody.
“It is based on these that we are calling on the Nigeria Police and its sisters’ security agencies to be neutral in conducting their duties and should not allow themselves to be used as rent-organizations by politicians to shield their despicable acts and conduct.
“The security agencies should respect the Digital Right of the citizens as they are the logical and legitimate extension of our fundamental human rights which are protected in our constitution and all the international instruments on human to which Nigeria is a signatory and the country is duty bound to accord the same respect to rights online as rights offline,” it stated.
CITAD urged the Nigeria Police to desist from arbitrary arrest of the citizens and ensure they are following due process in the arrest and detention of the citizens.
“The Nigeria Police should avoid the unlawful detention of the citizens and ensure every arrest made is with an order of a competent court.
“Anybody arrested for any offence shall be taken to court within specified period of time as in the Nigeria constitution.
“Civil Society Organizations should join hands to call on the Nigeria security agencies to stop the arbitrary arrest of the citizens without due process.
“CSOs should collaboratively work together for a sustained advocacy to ensure the bill is to be passed and assented by the president
“In conclusion, we demand that the Nigeria Police should allow the detained journalist access to his family and lawyers and also his release together with all those arrested unlawfully,” CITAD stressed.