SERAP tackles police for declaring IBB’s spokesman wanted

Written by on February 6, 2018

A human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has challenged the legality of the move by the police to arrest Mr. Kassim Afegbua, the spokesman for ex-military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.).

The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, in a statement by the police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, on Monday night, declared Afegbua wanted in connection with a statement he issued on Sunday on Babangida’s behalf.

In the statement, Afegbua quoated Babangida as advising President Muhammadu Buhari to prepare to leave office in 2019 to pave the way for a young person to lead the country.

The ex-head of state argued that it was time for Nigeria to do away with analogue leaders and embrace those of the digital age.

Hours after the statement appeared in the press, another statement was, however, issued and signed by Babangida, disowning the earlier one by Afegbua.

On Monday night, the police spokesman, Moshood, said the IG had declared Afegbua wanted “for making false statements, defamation of character and for an act capable of instigating public disturbance throughout the country.”

But in a statement on Tuesday by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, SERAP faulted the police on the order for Afegbua’s arrest.

SERAP contended that there was nothing inciting in the statement issued by Afegbua, adding that anyone was free to comment on political issues.

The group said, “Everyone has the right to speak out about political or other public interest issues. To do so cannot qualify as ‘making false statements’. And it’s certainly not ‘defamation of character’ let alone rising to ‘an act capable of instigating public disturbance.’ It is the essence of democracy and human rights.

“Declaring Afegbua wanted is unwarranted because there is no evidence of inciting violence against him.

“Afegbua’s statement doesn’t contain incitement to violence. Declaring him wanted simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression is the hallmark of an oppressive government.

“The police should immediately withdraw its unlawful declaration and end the harassment of Afegbua. President Muhammadu Buhari should publicly instruct the police authorities that it’s their duty to facilitate people’s enjoyment of their freedoms, not to hinder them.

“Afegbua’s statement is within reasonable limits, and entirely within his constitutional right to freedom of expression.

“The allegation that he instigated public disturbance is, to say the least, bizarre. Expressing one’s opinion is at the heart of freedom of expression, not sedition.

“At any rate, Babangida is not known to have lodged any complaint to the police on the matter. He reportedly confirmed Afegbua’s statement. Even if Babangida had issues with Afegbua’s statement, it’s not the police’s business to take upon itself Babangida’s perceived cause of action.”

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