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CITAD Demands Respect for Digital Rights  

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By Ozumi Abdul

Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) on Friday drew the attention of security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police force for what it regarded as the police continued arbitrary arrest and detention of the citizens for exercising their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

While speaking during a press conference in Kano State, the organization’s program officer Mallam Ali Sabo said it is important to state clearly that section (IV) subsection (c) of the Nigerian constitution prohibits any security agency from unlawful arrest, incarceration, or detention of the citizens without following due process.

He noted that what the country is witnessing today is totally in contrast to what the constitution stated, the act he said if not properly checked would throw the country into a lawless anarchical state.

“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 fling the country into anarchy and will negate the principles of democracy which is being practiced in Nigeria enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended.”

Sabo recalled that in the months of November and December of the just outgone 2022, CITAD organized a press conference which he said was geared towards reminding the authority of the negative implications the unlawful arrests of citizens by security agents portend, and also recalling that in the month of November of 2022,  a 500 level student of Federal University of Dutse, Aminu Adamu was arrested by the police on the order of the First  Lady for exercising his fundamental rights.

“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 built, but this government on 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, as well as a minor named  Umar Garba he said was arrested in Nguru Local Government Area, Yobe State over alleged defamation of character of the Yobe State Governor, Maimala Buni.

“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 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.

“This impunity being excised by the Nigerian politicians has transformed to another level to the extent that citizens are being deprived of 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 a threat to our democracy.

“Another and more recent case we have received is 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.

“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:

i.        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 a 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 a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometers, a period of one day; and

b.      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 is 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”, he said.

He submitted that the collusion between security agencies and politicians to harass and intimidate citizens for freely expressing their opinions is a serious attack on the country’s democracy.

Sabo added that democracy strives for the maintenance of a free market of opinions and availability of information that allows citizens to make informed choices in exercising their civic responsibility.

He added that when journalists are seized, detained, and tortured because they have exposed the dirty underbelly of some politicians.

He quickly reminded the authority it was police brutality that to the 2020 EndSARS pogrom where many lives and properties were lost, warning that such a mistake shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.

“We must also not forget that it was the brazen police brutality that led to the EndSars protest with all its attendant 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 break the ground and context for anarchy to set in which is not good for anybody”.

Sabo then called on 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.

He also enjoined  security agencies to  respect the Digital Rights 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 humans to which Nigeria is a signatory and the country is duty bound to accord the same respect to rights online as rights offline, as well calling on The Nigeria Police to  desist from the arbitrary arrest of the citizens and ensure they are following due process in the arrest and detention of the citizens

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