By NWOGHA NDUBUISI ANDY, Abakaliki
Following to the arrest and detention of Ebonyi State Correspondent, Vanguard Newspaper, Pst. Peter Okutu on Tuesday through the order of Executive Chairman, Ohaukwu Local Council, Barr. Omekannaya Odah, over a report on Naval Officers invasion in the area, Committe for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Ebonyi State condemned action.
A statement made available to AUTHENTIC News Daily, by the Secretary of the State Chapter of the body, Comrade Onyibe Jeremiah, described the modus for the arrest as illegal, provocative and unconstitutional, noting that the action contravened the democratic ethos as enshrined in 1999 constitution (as amended).
It further stated that no political actor should leverage on instrumentalities of the state to punish any person who they have suspected or alleged to had publish any false information but should charge the accuse to court for redress.
The State Secretary called on Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police for the immediate and unconditional release of Pst. Okutu, whereas charged Ebonyi State Government, the police Command that arrested the journalist and the local government Chairman to tender Public apology to the assaulted pressman.
The statement reads in full,
“PRESS RELEASE FROM COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS (CDHR) EBONYI STATE BRANCH
“The arrest of the Ebonyi State correspondent of the Vanguard newspaper Mr. Peter Okutu is illegal, wilful, unconstitutional and indeed, provocative.
“It’s clearly unacceptable and runs against the grains of every known democratic ethos in the same manner that it constitutes a backward breach of S. 39 of the Constitution of the FRN 1999 (As amended). It also flouts Art. 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, the relevant sections of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and even S. 8 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. As far back as 1985, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the celebrated case of Arthur Nwankwo v State had admonished that no State actor, whether Governor, Local Government Chairman or even President has the right to leverage the instrumentalities of State to punish any person whom (s)he suspects or alleges to have published any information believed to be false or incorrect”.
“The only option left to such a person or authority is to resort to court and seek redress in a defamation action for libel and slander. In the event, the CP Ebonyi State is called upon to release Mr. Peter Okutu unconditionally and immediately while they ( ie Ebonyi State Government , Ebonyi State Police Command and the relevant LG ) should tender an unreserved apology to him immediately”. It stated