The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) has called on the Attorney-General of the Federation Mr. Abubakar Malami to order the immediate release of Mr. Jones Abiri or charge him to court.
Mr. Jones Abiri, the Publisher of Weekly Source Newspaper was arrested by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) on July 21, 2016, in his office at Chief MelfordOkilo Expressway, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. He has not been seen in public since then.
In a press release by theCentre, the Executive Chairman of CACOL, Mr Debo Adeniran, stated that: “CACOL as a civil society organization is opposedto any arrest without trial of individuals or groups of persons, under whatever guise, since this could only be reminiscent of the era of detention without trial under the dark days of military dictatorship.This simply has no justification under a democracy. It is quite instructive thatdays after the arrest of Mr. Abiri, the SSS released a statement alleging that he wasa militant with the alias ‘Gen. AkotebeDankoro’also known ‘General Kill and Bury’ leader of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, purported to have been pursuing a separatist agenda in connivance with other criminal gangs in the Niger Delta region.
“In August 2016, Mr. Abiri’s family filed a fundamental rights’ enforcement lawsuit against the SSS, asking the Bayelsa High court to declare his arrest and continued detention without trial, as unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void, and order the SSS to release him on bail and direct the SSS to reopen Weekly Source newspaper’s office. The SSS line of defense their action was to tender a confessional statement, to have been written and signed by Mr. Abirion the same day of his arrest, admitting to, ‘being the founder, coordinator, and spokesperson’ of the militant group and directing his foot soldiers to carry out bombings of oil pipelines and blackmailing oil companies for money with threats of further bombings”.
“It was later in the same year that the SSS got an order from a Bayelsa State High Court Judge, Nayai Aganaba, ordering the SSS to reopen the Weekly Source newspaper but that the arrest and continued detention of Abiri, then only two months old, was lawful and in order. This was the legal muscle the SSS has held on to till date to keep the journalist in perpetual detention without trial, almost two years after”.
Mr Adeniran further adds: “Though the SSS swore on oath that the seeming delay in charging Mr. Abiri to court was due to ongoing efforts to arrest other members of the militant group, as well as waiting for results of the scientific analysis of evidence, security agency promised to ensure an expedited conclusion of investigation on the case and charge him and his accomplices to court without delay. Therefore his continued detention without arraignment in court, clearly gives an impression that the SSShas become a law unto itself.
“We would recollect that under International Human Rights Law, ‘a person is a victim of enforced disappearance if detained by state authorities or a third party with the authorization of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s whereabouts in a bid to deny the person the protection of the law.’ Just like Barrister Femi Falana (SAN) wrote in his open letter to President, Muhammed Buhari, in December 2017, asking him to end the illegal arrest and detention of Nigerians and foreigners alike sine it is a violation of several provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts, we insist that the continued detention of Mr. Abiri for almost two years without trial for any offenceis a clear denial of his fundamental human rights and abuse of power under the Muhammdu Buhari regime.
“This is because the law doesn’t permit anybody to be a complainant, accuser and judge in his own case. We therefore, use this medium to call for the immediate trial of Mr. Abiri, if he had actually violated any known laws of the federation, or he should be released, unconditionally to reunite with his suffering children, aged mother and loved ones without further delay”. Mr. Adeniran concluded.
Media Coordinator, CACOL
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