A Lagos based lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, has accused operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) of denying the mother and sister of a journalist, Kufre Carter, detained in Akwa Ibom from seeing him.
Mr Effiong – a counsel to the arrested Journalist said his client’s family members were chased were rudely chased away and prevented from gaining access into the SSS facility.
POLITICS NIGERIA gathered that the detained Journalist works at XL 106.9 FM in Uyo, was arrested and was arrested on April 27 for alleged private phone conversation on the response of the state government to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the SSS and the Akwa Ibom State Government alleged to be defamatory of the State Commissioner for Health, Dominic Ukpong.
On Wednesday, 29th May 2020, he was taken to a Chief Magistrates’ Court without legal representation. He was later granted bail the sum of Three Million Naira by Chief Magistrate Winifred M. Umohandy with one surety in like some.
The court specified that the surety must be either a Permanent Secretary with the Akwa Ibom State Government or a Civil Servant of Grade Level 17. Our client was also asked to produce a letter from the Village Head attesting to his identity.
Mr Effiong said his client was unable to fulfil these conditions.
“We filed an application the following day being Thursday, 30th April 2020 at the State High Court praying for the variation of the bail conditions. The said application has been fixed for Monday, 11th May 2020 for hearing. While we continue to rest our hope on the judiciary as an independent arm of government, we are troubled by the continuous refusal of the SSS to allow Carter to have access to his lawyers and family. Our client’s mother did nothing wrong by making efforts to see her only son.”
“We will like to place on record that this is not the first time that our client’s mother has tried to see her son in custody and was chased away. On 27th April 2020, Carter’s mother went to the same facility where her son is being detained to see her son and to also give him food but was equally chased away. Since the arrest of our client, neither his family nor we, his lawyers, have been granted access to him. We are seriously worried over the safety, wellbeing, physical and mental health of our client.”
“While we continue to wait for the day that the SSS will explain to the world when or how a purported case of “defamation” became part of its statutory mandate, we call on the President of Nigeria, the Director-General of the SSS, the National Human Rights Commission, the international community, the civil society, the media and the general public to prevail on the SSS and the Akwa Ibom State Government to respect the fundamental rights of our client.”
“Section 36 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every person who is charged with criminal offence the right to presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty. We are not worried by the charge of “defamation” initiated against our client. We are ready to face the government in court. All that we ask for is adherence to the rule of law, respect for the fundamental rights of our client and a fair trial as guaranteed by Section 36(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)”, Mr Effiong said.
Efforts to reach the spokesperson of the SSS, Peter Afunanya at the time filing this report proved abortive. His known telephone number was not connecting and he’s yet to respond to text message.