By Bukola Olasanmi
Human rights lawyer and gender activist, Ms. Esther Uzoma, has decried the continued detention of Mr. Tony Ezimakor, the Abuja Bureau Chief of the Independent Newspapers, by the Department of State Security without charging him to court saying it violates the 1999 Constitution (Amended) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
Ezimakor was invited by the DSS last Wednesday over a story detailing a Swiss agent in ransom payment for the released Chibok girls by the Federal Government and how government officials were allegedly profiteering from it and has remained detained for seven days now.
Uzoma, who is the National Coordinator of Proactive Gender Initiative, PGI, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday, said it was unfortunate that almost 19 years of civil rule has not impacted positively on the activities of Nigeria’s internal secret police.
“It is unbelievable that almost 19 years of civil, democratic rule we still have institutions of state like the DSS engaging in crass human rights abuse.
The constitution is clear that the press and mass media have the constitutional duty to hold government and its officials accountable to the Nigerian people.
“Besides, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, which Nigeria is a signatory to, says that every individual shall have the right to hold information, as well as every individual shall have the right to receive information and hold opinion within the law.
“So it is curious that the DSS will arrest Mr. Ezimakor in the performance of his lawful duties as a journalist. If they feel strongly that he has breached the law, he should be charged to court without delay. Holding him for seven days and counting now is an infringement not only on the constitution but his fundamental human rights, also guaranteed by the constitution.”
Uzoma also expressed the fear that if the DSS is allowed to get away with this, then journalists will be unable to perform their duties of holding government officials accountable and that could sound a death knell for the vaunted anti-corruption drive of the present government.
She called on the federal government to release the detained journalist without charges if it is serious about transparency and accountability in the country.