By Chinelo Obogo
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and chairman of Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Femi Falana, has described the arrest of Salisu Tanko-Yakassai, the Special Adviser on Media to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state by the State Security Service (SSS) as discriminatory and unconstitutional.
In a statement, he said that civil rights advocates, retired military officers and political party leaders including chieftains of the All Progressive Congress (APC) have repeatedly asked President Buhari to resign due to the worsening insecurity in the country and since they were not arrested, there is no justification for the detention of Mr. Tanko- Yakassai.
He also recalled how during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, chieftains of the APC including President Buhari, consistently criticized the former president and were not arrested or intimidated. He then demanded that Tanko-Yakassai be released unconditionally according to section 39 of the 1999 constitution which gives every Nigerian the right to freedom of expression.
“On Friday, February 27, 2021, Mr. Salisu Tanko-Yakassai, the Special Adviser on Media to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state called on President Muhammadu Buhari to either guarantee the security of the Nigerian people or resign from office. Even though Mr. Tanko-Yakassai was legitimately exercising his freedom of expression enshrined in section 39 of the Constitution, he was sacked by Governor Ganduje and arrested by the State Security Service. ASCAB has confirmed that Mr. Tanko- Yakassai is being held incommunicado in an undisclosed detention facility.
“Having regard to the fact that civil rights advocates, retired military officers and political party leaders including chieftains of the All Progressive Congress (APC) have repeatedly asked President Buhari to call it quits due to the worsening insecurity in the country, there is no justification whatsoever for the arrest and detention of Mr. Tanko- Yakassai. In both chambers of the National Assembly, there have been strident calls by legislators for President Buhari’s resignation or impeachment on the ground that criminal gangs have taken over the monopoly of violence in the country. Since such concerned citizens were never arrested the ongoing harassment of Mr. Tanko- Yakassai is high handed, discriminatory and illegal.
“It is on record that the APC and its leaders including General Muhammadu Buhari; National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, Nasir El-Rufai and Lai Mohammed repeatedly called for former President Goodluck Jonathan’s resignation between 2013 and 2014. Yet, they were never subjected to any form of intimidation for exercising their freedom of expression at the material time. Since the call for President Buhari’s resignation is likely to continue to be made by other concerned individuals and groups over the virtual collapse of the security architecture of the neocolonial State, it is pertinent to draw the attention of the State Security Service to the case of Arthur Nwankwo v The State 1985 6 NCLR 228 where the Court of Appeal charged the Nigerian people to engage in relentless criticism of democratically elected governments. In particular, Olajide Olatawura JCA (as he then was of blessed memory) had this to say: “The decision of the founding fathers of the present Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech which must include freedom to criticise should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided by the constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism in respect of their office so as to ensure that they are accountable to the people. They should not be made to feel that they live in an ivory tower and therefore belong to a different class. They must develop thick skins and where possible, plug their ears with wool if they feel too sensitive or irascible.”
“In view of the foregoing, we demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Tanko-Yakassai from illegal custody. However, if the State Security Service has evidence that the political detainee has committed any criminal offence known to law he should be transferred to the Police for proper investigation and possible prosecution without any delay,” the statement read.