Ojukwu’s Arrest: Lawyers knock police, say action raises grave concern

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

Senior legal practitioners in the country have condemned the arrest and detention of a journalist, Daniel Ojukwu, by the Nigerian Police Force, NPF.

Ojukwu, a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), was arrested and kept incommunicado at the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti in Lagos since last Wednesday reportedly on the strength of “an order from above.”

He was subsequently transfered to the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre, NPF-NCCC, on Sunday.

Police had through its spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, admitted that the reporter was arrested by its Intelligence Response Team, IRT, based on a petition that was written against him.

The police spokesperson said Mr. Ojukwu was accused of violating the Cybercrime Prohibition Act 2015.

Reacting to the development Sunday night, a human rights activist and President of the World United Consumer Organisaton, Mr. Clement Osuya, maintained that Ojukwu’s action and detention was in clear violation of press freedom, saying it raised “serious concerns about police conduct in Nigeria.”

He said: “It is alarming that Ojukwu’s family was not informed about his whereabouts until several days after his arrest. Furthermore, he was held incommunicado without access to legal representation.

“These events clearly violate press freedom and raise serious concerns about police conduct in Nigeria. It is particularly concerning that these events coincide with World Press Freedom Day.

“The arrest and detention of Ojukwu have ignited grave concerns about press freedom in Nigeria. It is evident that Cyber Crimes legislation is being misused to suppress media freedom and harass journalists.

“These Draconian acts underscore the imminent threat to press freedom and the public’s right to information. The incident also brings to light broader concerns about the abuse of power, violations of fundamental human rights, and an assault on press freedom, underscoring the urgent need for safeguarding press freedom and democratic values.

“I vehemently condemn the arrest and detention of journalist Ojukwu! This is an outrageous threat to press freedom and democracy, and I demand the immediate release of Ojukwu.

“It is imperative that we uphold the rights of journalists to carry out their work without any fear of intimidation or persecution.

“I cannot stress enough the gravity of this situation, and I urge everyone to defend journalists’ rights, protect the integrity of the media, and uphold democratic principles in Nigeria.”

Likewise, an Abuja based rights activist, Chief Chukwuma Nwachukwu, described Ojukwu’s arrest and detention as “another low and an abysmal degeneration of citizens’ rights by officials of law enforcement.”

According to him: “By the combined effects and community reading of Sections 34, 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (“1999 CFRN”), the rights to dignity of the person, personal liberty and freedom of movement of the citizen is protected and guaranteed.

“These rights effectively connote that no one shall be arbitrarily arrested. Thus anyone arrested shall be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction within a reasonable time, otherwise such detention is unlawful; and in any case, where a person is lawfully detained, it shall be under humane conditions.

“It is very appalling that despite these constitutional safeguards, Nigerians continue to be detained in various detention centres beyond the periods allowed by the Constitution without an order of court and in less than human conditions.

“It is therefore pertinent to state that unlawful detention is one of the evils militating against due process and the administration of the criminal justice sector in Nigeria.

“By hiding away and torturing Citizen Ojukwu without availing him access to his family, friends and even legal representative is a grave infringement on his dignity.

“Section 34(1) of the 1999 CFRN provides that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; no person shall be held in slavery or servitude and no one shall be required to perform forced labour.

“Any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained contrary to what these sections contemplate is entitled to compensation and a public apology from the appropriate authority or person.

“These remedies are mutually inclusive once it has been established that a person’s detention is unlawful.

“In such an event, even if no specific amount is claimed as compensation for the unlawful arrest or detention, the court is duty-bound to award commensurate compensation, as was held in Jim-Jaja v Commissioner of Police, Rivers State,” he added.

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