Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, SAN, has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the arrest and maltreatment of online journalists by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Keyamo, in the petition on Friday, said on or about the 1st day of January, 2018, Idris caused the men and officers of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad to invade the family compound of his clients, Daniel and Tim Elombah, the Publisher and Editor respectively of the UK-based online news website called Elombah.com, in Edoji, Uruagu Nnewi, Anambra State.
“Six persons (including our clients) were arrested, handcuffed like common criminals and driven to the SARS office in Nnewi. They were subsequently taken to the SARS headquarters in Awkuzu, near Awka. Up till this point, our clients were not informed of the reason(s) for their arrests.
“It was at SARS headquarters in Awkuzu that our clients were handed over to other armed officers who identified themselves as being from Special Tactical Squad, S.T.S, a team that works directly in the office of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris. Our clients and one Izuchukwu Elombah were then taken all the way by road (and in handcuffs) to Abuja.
“It was in Abuja that the officers then subjected our clients to hours of grueling interrogation regarding an article published in another blog called opinionnigeria.com, titled ‘IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies”. The article in question was not published by our clients’ blog, Elombah.com, and our clients denied any link to the author, one Ebiowei Dickson. Daniel and Izuchukwu Elombah were eventually released on bail, but have been made to report constantly since then.
“However, the Police got a Remand Order to detain Tim for seven days which expired more than a week ago and the Police are still holding Tim illegally. We now understand that the Police have prepared a Charge against our clients and they would soon be arraigned,” he said.
According to Keyamo, it was shocking and alarming, to say the least, that the Inspector-General of Police deployed the officers and men of special police squads like SARS and STS, which were established to fight serious and violent crimes, to settle a purely private grievance with on-line journalists.
He said if at all an offence was committed by the said published article (which is not conceded), a simple civil invitation to his clients would have sufficed, lamenting that to use such strong-arm tactics to reign in his clients was a gross abuse of his office and an employment of stone-age tactics in pursuing his personal grievance.
“He has further displayed his personal vendetta by refusing to release Tim Elombah long after the detention order has expired. This is one of the worst forms of abuse of human rights. Your Excellency, such practices should be clearly unacceptable under your watch. A situation where your appointees ride rough shod over innocent citizens or use the positions to which you appointed them to settle personal scores should, ordinarily, rankle you and cause you to intervene.
“It should be more so as the substance of the matter has to do with the criticism of the personal life of a public officer by the Fourth Estate of the Realm, a practice that has come to be recognized as one of the components of a thriving democracy. If a public officer cannot tolerate or stomach harsh criticisms, he has no business occupying public office.
“It is in the light of the above we urge you to use your good offices to order an investigation into this crass display of power and indiscretion by the Inspector-General of Police and mete out appropriate sanctions against him, which may include the extreme step of relieving him of his position,” he said.