By Izunna Okafor, Awka
A human rights and civil society organization, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), has called for the release of the Anambra-born journalist and online editor of the 247UREPORTS (www.247ureports.com) detained in Anuja police station.
The CLO made the call in a press release dated 7th July, 2022, signed by its South-east Chairman, Comrade Aloysius Attah
Chairman, and made available to newsmen in Awka.
Titled “Arrest and Detention of Journalist Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe: Police Must Respect Citizen’s Rights and Act Within the Ambit of the Law”, the press release reads:
“The Civil Liberties Organisation, Nigeria’s foremost human rights and civil society organization, Southeast Zone calls on the personnel of the Nigerian Police Force to ensure utmost respect for the citizen’s rights, stickler for professionalism and take actions within the ambit of the law regarding the arrest and detention of Citizen Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe.
“Ezenekwe, an Anambra-born journalist and editor of 247UREPORTS (www.247ureports.com) was reportedly arrested by the police in Abuja on Tuesday 06/07/2022 at the instance of the former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Willie Obiano, Mr. Primus Odili.
“Details already in the public domain stated that the media practitioner was whisked away in a commando style by some plain clothed policemen who refused to disclose to him, reasons behind his arrest before taking him to the police headquarters at Louis Edet House, Area II, Abuja.
“He was later transferred to Maitama police station Abuja where he spent the night after he was then informed of a petition against him from Chief Primus Odili over a ‘libellous’ publication, he (Ezenekwe) wrote and published on 13th May, this year.
“The story also making the rounds say Ezenekwe is being forced by the police on (Odili’s instruction) to disclose his sources of information and also mention the names of the people behind the story he wrote or else he will continue to remain in detention.
“It was also reported that Ezenekwe has been sick before his arrest while he has been denied access to his medication and has been reportedly subjected to torture, intimidation and torment.
“While the CLO will not delve into the impropriety or otherwise of Ezenekwe’s conduct in his media practice or in the said ‘libellous’ publication , we call on the police to resist the temptation of becoming the accuser, the prosecutor and the judge in this matter.
“No journalist worth his onions can be forced to disclose his source of information and by the provisions of the law, Ezenekwe remains innocent of all accusations levelled against him until proven otherwise.
“The presumption of innocence is a constitutional right of every person as provided in section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“If there are prima facie evidences against Ezenekwe before the police, the law enforcements agents should not engage in trial by ordeal or resort to self help in order to impress whoever briefed them.
“The right of detainees while in custody must be maintained to the maximum by the police and the police is mandated by law to not only give Ezenekwe unfettered access to his medication and his lawyers but also ensure that they release him on bail timeously and continue their investigation with a resort to the law courts for adjudication if need be.
“Apart from the specific provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, there are the Universal Instrumentsof the law as enshrined in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, 1988 and The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981 which Nigeria is a state party to, which all made provisions for the rights of anyone under the custody of the police or in detention.
“The United Nations (UN) Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states it clearly in Principle 1 that “All persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”
“Principle 2 succinctly states that “Arrest, detention or imprisonment shall only be carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials or persons authorized for that purpose.” while in Principle 6 “No person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No circumstance whatever may be invoked as a justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
“The police, while handling Ikenna Ezenekwe’s matter should bear in mind the expression of his inalienable right to freedom of expression as a journalist, contained in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) : “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the rights includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
“The right to freedom of expression is also contained in chapter IV section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and other International Human Rights Instruments which Nigeria is a party.
“Section 39 expressly provides for the protection of this right because of its importance and relevance to the enhancement of personal liberty and democracy.
“While the CLO is also aware that this right to freedom of expression is not absolute and also comes with consequences if abused, we still urge the police to refrain from any arbitrariness while handling this matter.
“Section 35 (4) (5) of the same chapter four of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended made provisions for the time frame for the release on bail for a detainee or charging to court.
“Section 61 (1) of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 agrees with the provisions of this constitution while stating that a suspect arrested without a court warrant, other than a capital offence, should be granted bail, where it is impracticable to charge to court within 24 hours.
“We therefore call on the police to release Ikenna Ezenekwe on bail without further delay while the matter takes its normal route in law and course of justice for all parties in the matter- Justice for the accused, justice for the accuser and justice for the society at large.”