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HURIWA condemns harassment of journalist by Lai Mohammed, detention of Akwa-Ibom journalist by DSS

Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed PHOTO: Twitter

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned the harassment and arbitrary arrest of the journalist, Rotimi Jolayemi also known as Oba Akewi on the orders of the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed over a poem read during a radio programme the minister considers critical of him.

HURIWA has therefore called on President Muhammadu 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 for the media to practice their profession in line with section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution which 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.

“These feudalistic tendencies violate everything that is associated with constitutional democracy and the Rule of law and must therefore not be swept under the carpet by President Muhammadu 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,” it said.

In a statement signed on Tuesday in Abuja by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said reports indicate that the journalist turned himself to the police when the minister ordered the arrest of his wife, Mrs. Dorcas Jolayemi, and two of the media practitioner’s brothers, John and Joseph, who were all locked up for eight, nine and two days respectively and were tortured physically, emotionally and psychologically.

The Rights group said these crimes against humanity must never go unpunished even as the Rights group said it will be petitioning the governments of the United States of America, United Kingdom; Australia, Canada, and Germany to pray for the travel ban to be imposed on Lai Mohammed.

HURIWA which asked the minister to resign immediately or be blacklisted by Nigerian media also condemned the Commissioner of Police in Kwara state for being used to commit the horrendous human rights crimes of hostage-taking because the reported unlawful detention of two brothers and the wife of the journalists 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 authorized the abduction of the duo should be arrested and prosecuted for alleged armed kidnapping and punished by the competent Court of law.

“HURIWA hereby calls on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to order the immediate arrest of the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed and the Kwara State Commissioner of Police for reportedly whisking away innocent persons and detaining them only because their brother was alleged to have read a poem considered offensive by the minister.

“This is the elevation of the culture of impunity and criminality for officials of government to resort to self-help measures against a perceived opponent. This is a violation of 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 the journalist Jolayemi 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, ” the statement noted.

In a related development, the non-governmental organisation also condemned the continuous detention of the Akwa Ibom based journalist by the Department of State Services (DSS) despite Court Order granting bail. HURIWA, similarly condemned the continuous detention of the Abia State lawyer Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna by the Police/DSS on the orders of Governor Of Abia State.

HURIWA recalled that the journalist Kufre Carter was arrested on 27 April 2020 for allegedly criticizing the Commissioner for Health in the state, Dominic Ukpong even as the Department of State Services has refused to release Kufre Carter, a sports journalist based in Akwa Ibom State, despite a court order from the state’s Magistrate Court.

It 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 media worker said thus: “We have waited for the State Security Service in Akwa Ibom State for over 24 hours for them to comply with the valid order of the court served on them on Friday, 22nd May 2020 for the release of our client, since they have refused to obey the court, I am compelled to issue this press release.

HURIWA, therefore called for the immediate freedom for the detained journalist, 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 in Akwa Ibom State and we consider this detention as barbaric, primitive, Illegal, unconstitutional and absolutely reprehensible.

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HURIWALai Mohammed
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