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CSO knocks FG over arbitrary arrest, detention of NLC President, 70 OAU students, Abdulrasheed Bawa


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A civil society organisation (CSO), the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has condemned the federal government over arbitrary arrest and detention of the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Joe Ajaero, 70 students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife Osun State, and the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.

In two separate press statement issued on November 1, HURIWA National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the arrests and detentions smirks of irresponsibility and abuse of power, especially when the victims were released even without charging them to court.

Comrade Onwubiko lambasted Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun over recent developments that could hardly be described as professional.

He said: “The Nigeria police has degenerated to the lowest level… The newly confirmed Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, has become a tool in the hands of the Imo State governor, Mr. Hope Uzodinma, so much so that the police opted to hold a so-called seminar for officers in Imo State in which the incumbent governor is fighting tooth and nail to win re-election by all conceivable and inconceivable means.

“The IGP has even gone as far as using the photo of the Imo State governor alongside his own and that of President Tinubu and made it the official banner hoisted in front of the force headquarters in Abuja.

“How do we know if the police is not already compromised to manipulate the November 11th, 2023, poll in Imo State, even when both the Chief of Defence Staff and NSA Nuhu Ribadu made heavy weather of the so-called resolve of government to organise free, fair and transparent election in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi States?”

Speaking on the arrest of the NLC President while the union were organizing a protest, Onwubiko said:

“The irrational, unconstitutional and illegal arrest of the NLC President Mr. Joe Ajaero by the police in his line of legal duty as the President of the NLC, is a confirmation that the police indeed has become a willing political tool to be used to oppress workers and civil rights activists.

“The same police, arbitrarily arrested a journalist in a way that most eyewitnesses who saw the arrest by plain clothed and hooded men, presumed that they were unknown gunmen or kidnappers and this incident in Owerri, Imo State, took place near the Assumpta Catholic Cathedral but the journalist was flown to Abuja.

“It is time to call this misbehaving police to order because Nigeria is not a dictatorship.”

HURIWA, therefore, called on IGP Egbetokun to immediately release the NLC President Mr. Joe Ajaero and sanction the Imo State police commissioner for this outrageous betrayal of constitutionalism and egregious affront to Human Rights.

“The arrest of the NLC President is the height if irresponsibility on the part of the police commissioner who wants to turn Imo State into a ‘TERROR TERRITORY’, whereby opposition activists are not allowed to operate.

“This tyranny must end or the police will soon realise that they are actually planting the seed of a revolution that will sweep across the length and breadth of Africa’s biggest democracy.

“He who makes peaceful change impossible, has created room for inevitable violent change. Let the police be very cautious and not degenerate into fascism because this will be resisted since we are free born citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Onwubiko added.

He recalled that information filtered in that the Imo State Police Command operatives arrested Ajaero and whisked him away from the venue of an ongoing protest in Imo state.

According to report, the development took place as hoodlums descended on protesters, smashing vehicles and inflicting wounds on labour members.

At the time of filing this report, the whereabouts of the NLC President are unknown as heavily armed security operatives took him away.

Ajaero had earlier directed all members of the Union and affiliate unions to shut down all sectors in Imo State, including air, land, and sea, as the union commenced protest today.

Reports said that Ajaero announced the commencement of the protest at the end of the Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting held in the late hours of Tuesday, October 31, 2023, in Owerri, the state capital.

The NLC president had accused the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, of violating and neglecting workers’ welfare.

He alleged that due to the hostile actions of the governor towards workers in the state, many of them had died because of the lack of payment of their salaries.

Speaking further, Ajaero lamented the non-compliance with the national minimum wage by the state government while accusing Uzodimma of refusing to implement previous agreements, especially the accord reached on January 9, 2021.

In another development, HURIWA described as ‘irresponsible, and unmitigated insanity, the reported mass arrests of over 70 students of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife Osun State who were reportedly arrested by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in a midnight raid on hostels outside the campus.

Multiple sources in Ile-Ife confirmed to our correspondent on Wednesday morning that the officials, around 2 a.m., stormed the Fine Touch and Superb hostels in Oduduwa Estate, Ile-Ife, broke into rooms, and arrested the students.

Reasons for the arrest have not been confirmed as of press time, but the Students’ Union President, Abass Ojo, said the union had details of “72 students picked up from the hostel with phones and cars taken away.”

A former union official, Joy Abiola, told our correspondent that the students were manhandled.

“The EFCC officials came between 1:40 a.m and 4:00 a.m. Only students stay in those hostels,” Joy said, adding, “How can you arrest people for owning iPhones, laptops, and cars?”

Another student, identified simply as Ewatee, said: “Female students were among those picked up. Even some fresh students who just went to greet their senior colleagues were arrested. The approach is wrong.”

In a video shared with our correspondent, taken by one of the students, several young persons said to be students of the hostel were seen being marched into a white Hummer Bus with some security officials hitting them and ordering them to move and enter quickly.

In another video, about six vehicles were seen alongside the white Hummer Bus on the move. Students said the officials were leaving the Ile-Ife area and heading to Ibadan.

Contacted, the head of Public Affairs Department of the EFCC, Ibadan Zonal Command, Olumide Egbodofo, said an update would be given on the incident.

“A press statement will be released regarding that soon,” the spokesperson added.

Also, the phone line of the university’s spokesperson, Abiodun Olarewaju, was unreachable as of press time.

HURIWA, however, condemned this arrest as an attempt by EFCC to tell the World that Nigerian Universities are crooks and fraudsters.

“This stereotype being brandished about our youths by the EFCC is absolutely insane and inaccurate.

“Why has the EFCC not arrested the over 500 lawmakers from the National Assembly who diverted over N100 billion to buy themselves N160 million worth of SUVs each which amounts to advanced fees fraud by legislators?” Onwubiko asked.

Respecting Abdulrasheed Bawa, Onwubiko asked President Bola Tinubu and the Department of State Security (DSS) to tell Nigerians why the former EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, was arrested and detained for months in the first place.

He said the arrested and eventual release of Bawa after an unexplained four-month detention raised critical questions about democracy and transparency in Nigeria.

HURIWA strongly demanded a full disclosure from both President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the DSS regarding the circumstances surrounding the arrest, detention, and subsequent release.

The statement reads as follows: “The sequence of events surrounding Abdulrasheed Bawa’s detention is bewildering. The DSS arrested him in a manner akin to ‘Gestapo tactics’ on June 14, detaining him for an extended period without filing any charges.

“The Nigerian public must be informed about the reasons behind this inexcusable and unjustified detention. In the name of democracy, transparency, and accountability, we insist that the truth must come to light.

“Furthermore, Abdulrasheed Bawa’s release has occurred under a cloud of suspicion and secrecy. It is important to note that Bawa resigned from his position while still in detention.

“This fact raises questions about the circumstances leading to his resignation. The people of Nigeria deserve to know whether this resignation was voluntary or coerced, highlighting the potential abuse of power.

“Therefore, the hasty and covert nature of Bawa’s arrest, detention, and subsequent release necessitates a comprehensive explanation from the DSS and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“As a democratic nation, it is essential that government agencies, particularly those responsible for upholding the rule of law, operate with the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

“HURIWA is deeply concerned about the implications of such actions on the democratic fabric of our nation and the trust of the Nigerian people in their government.

“While Bawa’s detention was shrouded in secrecy, the DSS presented a partisan witness during the Enugu Election Petition Tribunal, testifying about the alleged forged National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) certificate of Peter Mbah, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“This stark contrast in approach raises questions about the impartiality and consistency of the DSS’s actions. If the DSS can appear to serve the interests of one political party in a gubernatorial election dispute, then it should be held accountable for its actions in the detention and release of Abdulrasheed Bawa.

“The DSS’s involvement in the Enugu Election Petition Tribunal and its controversial actions therein emphasize the urgent need for transparency and accountability in its dealings, particularly in high-profile cases like the detention of a former EFCC chairman.”

HURIWA, therefore, demanded that the DSS provide a satisfactory explanation for its actions and shed light on whether they were influenced by political considerations or partisan interests.

“The citizens of Nigeria are entitled to know the truth behind the arrest and release of Abdulrasheed Bawa, as well as the circumstances that led to his resignation. Secrecy and a lack of transparency in such matters are antithetical to democracy and signify a dangerous drift toward authoritarianism.

“HURIWA stands firm in its commitment to upholding the principles of justice, human rights, and the rule of law.

“We call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the DSS to come forward and provide the Nigerian people with the answers they deserve,” the statement reads.

Finally, HURIWA implored the government to uphold the values of democracy, transparency, and accountability in all its actions, as these are the cornerstones upon which our great nation was founded.

It emphasized that Nigerians are watching, and their trust in the democratic process must be upheld through open and honest disclosure in all matters related to the governance of our nation. Read more.


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