By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Inspector General of Police Squad (IGP Squad) on Tuesday 26thMay, 2020 arrested Daily Post’s Delta State correspondent, Mr. Mathew Omonigho, in the premises of Delta State Nigerian Union of Journalists, Warri Correspondents’ Chapel.
Three other journalists who came in solidarity with him were arrested and later released.
Meanwhile an Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has added its voice to those of many others who have called for the release of Mathew Omonigho from police detention.
This was made known in a press statement issued by the Director of the organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Friday, 29th May, 2020.
“The arrest of Mr. Mathew Omonigho allegedly for having the telephone number of a suspect is not only laughable but also illegal, unlawful, illegitimate and unconstitutional.
“The search of his telephone is a breach of his privacy. It is a contravention of Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says, ‘The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.’ Besides, Article 12 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory stipulates inter alia the right of every individual to privacy, family, home and correspondence.
“We therefore condemn in the strongest terms the arrest and detention of Omonigho and we demand his immediate and unconditional release. We remind the IGP Squad of Section 23 of the Police Act which stipulates that suspects cannot be detained beyond 24 hours after which the person should be charged to court in conformity with the basic constitutional rights of citizens.
“The IGP Squad should note that Article 7(b) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights stipulates the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court or tribunal. Article 9 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees right to freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
“Omonigho should therefore be released or produced in court as his arrest and detention is an encroachment on his freedom of movement as guaranteed by Section 41 of the Nigerian Constitution. Article 10 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights also lays emphasis on right to fair trial, in full equality to a fair and public hearing.
“In the same vein, we frown upon the manhandling of the journalist. His trousers and belt were allegedly torn. We condemn this absence of decorum. The police should be more civil. Nigerians deserve respect for the dignity of their human persons, more so members of the Nigerian press. The press is the voice of the voiceless and maltreatment of this Fourth Estate of the Realm is a threat to free speech. Democracy cannot thrive where freedom of the press is not guaranteed. Therefore the constant intimidation and harassment of journalists should stop forthwith.
“Right to the dignity of the human person is entrenched in Section 34 (b) & (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended (2011) which says, ‘Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly…(b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.’
“The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 4, Clause 1 & 2 also says, ‘Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.’ In addition, Article 5 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights equally emphasizes right to freedom from torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“On a final note, we strongly condemn the manhandling, arrest and detention of Mr. Mathew Omonigho. We call for his immediate and unconditional release or arraignment before a court of competent jurisdiction. We charge the police and other security agencies to desist from constant intimidation and harassment of members of the press.”