Emperor Ogbonna: Continued detention is intolerance
Being a statement by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) on the continued detention of Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna; a lawyer arrested on the orders of Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia State governor, over a Facebook post.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria is a prominent civil rights advocacy group. It is a team of professionals who have come together to advance the single agenda of building a formidable and economically strong united Nigeria.
It has come to our notice that 74 days after Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna was rearrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) he is yet to be charged to court and also still being held in detention.
Emperor Ogbonna; a lawyer, who was arrested on the orders of Okezie Ikpeazu; Abia State Governor over a Facebook post, denied being the originator of the post but that he only reshared it, was granted bail by a Federal High Court sitting at Umuahia, the state capital, on April 29 but rearrested hours later by the DSS.
Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna was initially arrested in his office by operatives of the State Security Service and armed policemen and had been in detention since March 24, 2020.
He was first taken to the Abia State Police Command where he was confronted with a petition written against him alleging that he published falsehood against the governor of Abia State, and that the governor swore to an oath at the Ancient Harashima.
He was eventually arraigned before the Magistrate’s Court which remanded him in custody. He was later charged before the Federal High Court, Umuahia, and was admitted to bail by the said court.
Ogbonna perfected the conditions of his bail and was released from the correctional centre on April 28, 2020, but he was again arrested immediately by the Abia State Director of SSS who later transferred him to to the headquarters in Abuja.
The DSS was reported to have claimed that Ogbonna was re-arrested for another complaint against him, different from his alleged false claims against the Abia State governor. But even if this were to be true, his continued detention beyond the constitutionally permissible duration still makes it unlawful and a flagrant violation of his constitutional rights to liberty, presumption of innocence, human dignity and due process.
If the DSS believes they have any reasonable grounds to re-arrest him (assuming without conceding that they do have) or credible charges against him, they ought to have promptly handed him over to the police for prosecution, in accordance with due process.
It is not only illegal, but also malicious and high-handed for the DSS to refuse to release Emperor Ogbonna or charge him to court and to also refuse his lawyers and family access to visit him despite his precarious health condition.
Why we are Worried
We, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria are concerned that state Governors are now in the race to becoming the most dangerous violators of human rights and disobedience to the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms enshrined in the chapter four of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended and a plethora of other global human rights conventions and treaties which Nigeria is a signatory to including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); International Covenant on civil and political rights; African Charter on people’s and Human Rights and the international instruments prohibiting arbitrary arrests and detention and the use of torture which in this instance have been unleashed on this Nigerian citizen.
Not too long ago, in Imo state, the incumbent governor Hope Uzodinma, who got into office from a verdict of the Supreme Court was reported to have used the DSS to whisk away into its dungeon, the Director General of Social media of the Imo state people’s democratic party; Mr. Ambrose Nwaogwugwu on the grounds that he (Ambrose Nwaogwugwu insulted him by calling him ‘Supreme Court Governor’
Now in Abia State, the lawyer; Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna has been kept in detention for months for allegedly spreading rumours that the Abia State governor Okezie Ikpeazu took an oath in an Indian shrine to be faithful to the former governor Theodore Orji who railroaded him into office in 2015 as governor.
Also, breaches of human rights of activists and journalists have happened in Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Cross Rivers States. We are now in a very disloyal time whereby officials of government have no regards for the Principle of the Rule of law and the respect to the fundamental human rights of Citizens.
A governor or minister who uses the police to lock down opponents is resorting to self-help measures and this is absolutely condemnable because these predispositions are devaluing our constitutional democracy and making Nigeria a laughing stock before the global community of humanity.
The wife had severally called on Abia State Government to release her Husband but they have refused to grant her request. HURIWA is hereby asking The Department of States Services to release forthwith citizen Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna from the dungeons and respect the constitutional freedoms of this Nigerian citizen since Nigeria is not a banana republic or are we?
Our Position and Demands:
The continued detention of Ogbonna is a scandalous disobedience of a court order calling for his release on bail.
The DSS has now established itself as a lawless organisation with an ignoble pattern of engaging in politically-motivated arrests and indefinite detentions incommunicado of government critics and disobedience to court orders. The President must at this time intervene and save our democracy from being derailed by the DSS.
It’s time for the President to curtail the excesses of the SSS and call its leaders to order.
More so, we want to restate it to the Abia State governor that political power is ephemeral but the legacies of fairness or the treacherous records of corruption and intolerance of divergent opinions displayed by the holders of political offices will far outlive them and their generations yet unborn will be visited with the historical misfortune of reading about what their father unleashed against the citizens whilst he presided over in government.
Government positions are not for personal glorification nor is it for personal glorification. The decision to detain Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna for over three months without trial is not only absolutely unconstitutional, Illegal and lawless but is despicable, treacherous and reprehensible.
We hereby call for an end to this show of brute force by the Governor of Abia state. Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna is innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty by the competent Court of law in accordance with section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is entitled to enjoy the bail granted him by the Court since section 36(5) grants him right to fair hearing in any matter instituted by the government.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; national coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)
Miss. Zainab Yusuf, national director of media affairs