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MURIC demands release of detained Delta-based journalist

By Idowu Abdullahi,

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has demanded the unconditional release of a Delta State-based journalist, Mathew Omonigho, from the state’s Police Command over what it described as unconstitutional detainment

It explained that the journalist’s detention smacked violation and gross abuse of human rights, adding that the Police has no justification for detaining the media man as he had committed no offense.

Recall that the Inspector-General of Police Squad (IGP Squad) had on Tuesday 26th May 2020 arrested Omonigho, who is the Daily Post’s Delta State correspondent, in the premises of Delta State Nigerian Union of Journalists, Warri Correspondents’ Chapel.

He was allegedly arrested for being in possession of a suspect’s telephone number on his phone. Three other journalists who followed him in solidarity were arrested and later released.

But, MURIC’s Executive Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, while reacting, described the arrest as illegal, unlawful, illegitimate, and unconstitutional, adding that the Article 12 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory stipulates inter alia the right of every individual to privacy, family, home, and correspondence.

Akintola, through a statement released to newsmen on Friday, argued that the search of Omonigho’s telephone remains a breach of his privacy, noting that ii contravenes Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guaranteed and protected the privacy of citizens.

“We, therefore, condemn in the strongest terms the arrest and detention of Omonigho and we demand his immediate and unconditional release. We remind the IGP Squad of Section 23 of the Police Act which stipulates that suspects cannot be detained beyond 24 hours after which the person should be charged to court in conformity with the basic constitutional rights of citizens.

“The IGP Squad should note that Article 7(b) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights stipulates the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court or tribunal. Article 9 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.

“Omonigho should, therefore, be released or produced in court as his arrest and detention is an encroachment on his freedom of movement as guaranteed by Section 41 of the Nigerian Constitution. Article 10 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights also lays emphasis on the right to a fair trial, in full equality to a fair and public hearing.

“In the same vein, we frown upon the manhandling of the journalist. His trousers and belt were allegedly torn. We condemn this absence of decorum. The police should be more civil. Nigerians deserve respect for the dignity of their human persons, more so members of the Nigerian press. The press is the voice of the voiceless and maltreatment of this Fourth Estate of the Realm is a threat to free speech. Democracy cannot thrive where freedom of the press is not guaranteed. Therefore the constant intimidation and harassment of journalists should stop forthwith,” the statement read.

Akintola, however, charged the police and other security agencies to desist from constant intimidation and harassment of members of the press.

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