…says police should release Nonso Uba or charge the journalist to court
Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has rubbished the attempt by the Imo State government to justify the gestapo type abduction by some unidentified armed men in the street of Owerri near the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church Owerri at the weekend of a radio journalist Mr. Nonso Uba over alleged libel against the person of the Imo State governor Mr.Hope Uzodimma.
HURIWA has therefore asked the Nigeria Police Force to immediately free the abducted journalist Mr. Nonso Uba, apologise for the illegal manner of his arrest and/or charge him to the competent Court of law if the governor has good enough evidence and must be ready to submit himself to court to establish his allegation of libel against the Owerri based journalist. HURIWA has tasked the police service commission to ascertain how the Nigeria Police Force could mobilise huge financial resources to probably fly a chattered aircraft or pay for the expensive tickets on commercial airline with the sole purpose of invading Owerri to arrest a journalist over civil libel.
HURIWA said that libel or slander under the Nigerian jurisprudence as in most jurisdictions around the World is essentially a CIVIL MATTER, just as the Rights group maintained that it was unnecessary for the Imo State governor to reach out to the Police Force headquarters in Abuja which led to what most eye witnesses had described as broad daylight armed kidnapping of a citizen of Nigeria and a professional radio journalist Nonso Uba just as the Rights group said the strident effort by the spokesperson of the Imo State government to justify this illegality and the gestapo style abduction of a citizen of Imo State, is untenable and absolutely illogical.
HURIWA has expressed shock that under a democracy, the police operatives paid with taxpayers money can behave like terrorists or kidnappers by double crossing the moving car driven by a Journalist Mr. Nonso Uba in their overzealous determination to display crude force leading to the abandonment of the car of the journalist by the roadside after he was reportedly whisked away and flown to Abuja.
“If we may ask, is the treasury of the Nigeria Police Force overflowing with slush fund made up of United States dollars that it is now going about abducting citizens accused by a governor and then flying him to Abuja from Owerri when the investigation could have been handled by the nearest Divisional police officer and if it is an actionable matter then the accused person is invited with his legal representative and the matter handed over to the prosecution team to take to the competent Court of law for adjudication with all the constitutional rights of fairness, objectivity and neutrality allowed for an unfettered determination lawfully?
It will be recalled that the Imo State Government on Saturday claimed that the police in Abuja arrested the journalist on allegations of criminal libel bordering on threat to state security. The Commissioner for Information and Strategy,Mr. Declan Emelumba, in a statement in Owerri regretted that commentators have been blinded by emotions, such that they have completely ignored the alleged offence of the radio presenter.
HURIWA quoted the media as saying that the Imo State government noted that neither the style of his arrest nor the contents of his radio programmes was the issue but the defamatory statement by Mr Uba that Governor Hope Uzodimma and Alhaji Asari Dokubo were responsible for the killings in Imo State. According to Emelumba, the government as a law abiding institution sought the help of the police to investigate and substantiate the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.
HURIWA condemned the excessive use of Force by the police drafted from Abuja who reportedly acted like armed kidnappers in trying to seize the Journalist which they reportedly succeeded by throwing him into their waiting vehicle and zoomed off leaving the car been driven by the journalist on the main road. The Rights group accused the Imo State of violating Section 15(5) of the Constitution by abusing his power and resorting to self help of inviting trucks load of police operatives to arrest a journalist over allegations of libel that is a civil matter.
HURIWA stated that the governor if he thinks he has been libeled, could have sued the journalist in the competent Court of law as is done by most people instead of displaying State power and probably he is using the resources of Imo State to wage a personal case of libel. If Mr. Hope Uzodimma was libeled, is it Imo State that is libeled?