• Falana, SERAP, own lawyer condemn harassment
Chukwudi Nweje, with agency report
General Ibrahim Babangida’s spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua, has slammed a N1 billion suit against the Nigerian Police, at a Federal High Court, in Abuja.
The suit came a day after the police declared Afegbua wanted, in connection with a statement he issued on behalf of Babangida, which advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019, for failing to meet the aspirations of Nigerians who elected him in 2015.
This is coming at a time Afegbua will visit the police headquarters in Abuja today.
The suit, with number, FHC /ABJ/CS129/2018, was filed on his behalf by the law firm of Kayode Ajulo and Co, which has has Afegbua as applicant and the Nigerian Police Force, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, the Force PRO, Moshood Jimoh, among others, as respondents. It is challenging the legality of the arrest order placed on Afegbua by the police.
The suit is seeking among other things “a declaration that (I)the continued witch-hunt, harassment, intimidation,and persecution of the Applicant or threats thereof by the Respondents on the basis of a letter he wrote on behalf of his principal, General Babangida, when he has not lodged any formal complaint to the police or any other security agency, (ii) the declaration of Afegbua by the first to third respondents through the media of the fourth to fifth respondent that the applicant is wanted when there has been no formal invitation extended to him, or any attempt has been made to arrest him and he has resisted or refused to honour such invitation do not only constitute prosecutorial misconduct , malicious process,misfeasance in public office by the first to third respondents but also infringe unjustly upon the applicant’s fundamental rights to life, dignity of human person , liberty to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to freedom of expression , association and movement” as guaranteed and protected under the 1999 constitution.
It also sought “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents by themselves, officers, servants, agents and privies from continued with-hunt, harassment, intimidation and persecution of the applicant or threats thereof ostensibly on the basis of a letter he wrote on behalf of his principal.
“An order directing the respondents to pay the applicant severally and jointly the sum of N1 billion as damages, for breach of the fundamental rights of the Applicant.
“An order directing the respondents to apologise to the applicant…and for such further or other orders as this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
Meanwhile, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has said the IGP has defamed Afegbua by declaring him wanted.
To Falana, “no criminal offence known to law has been committed to warrant the action of the inspector general of police. By declaring Afegbua wanted, when he has not failed to honour the invitation of the police, the IGP has over-reached himself. It is undoubtedly that it is the IGP who has defamed Afegbua by portraying him as a fugitive from the law. Therefore, Idris is advised to withdraw the offensive declaration without any further delay.
“Since General Babangida has now turned round to insist that he authorised Afegbua to issue the controversial statement, it is hoped that he will be prepared to say so in a criminal court. His testimony will go a long way to destroy the criminal case which the IGP intends to institute against Afegbua.
Afegbua’s lawyers reiterated, yesterday, he will present himself to the police, in Abuja, today, as he is not on the run.
Head of the chambers, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, in condemning the act, said the police can only declare somebody wanted if he is a suspect in the commission of a crime or is on the run.
Dr. Ajulo maintained that Afegbua is neither a criminal nor on the run but only performed his legitimate duties.
In a similar development, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has “strongly condemned Afegbua’s intimidation and harassment by the police.
In a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, SERAP said “everyone has the right to speak out about political or other public interest issues. To do so cannot qualify as ‘making false statements.’ And, it is certainly not ‘defamation of character,’ let alone rising to ‘an act capable of instigating public disturbance.’ It is the essence of democracy and human rights. Declaring Afegbua wanted is unwarranted because there is no evidence of inciting violence against him.”
SERAP insisted “Afegbua’s statement doesn’t contain incitement to violence. Declaring him wanted simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression is the hallmark of an oppressive government.
“The police should immediately withdraw its unlawful declaration and end the harassment of Afegbua. President Buhari should publicly instruct the police authorities that it is their duty to facilitate people’s enjoyment of their freedoms, not to hinder them.”