A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has narrated how an Akwa-Ibom based journalist, Kufre Carter, was illegally arrested and tortured by operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS).
According to Mr Effiong, the arrest of Mr Carter (his client) was instigated by the Akwa-Ibom state government.
This was contained in a statement sent to POLITICS NIGERIA on Monday evening.
While narrating the chain of events, he said Mr Carter received a phone call from Mr. Uchechukwu Nnatube, the Director of Operations of the State Security Service (SSS) in Akwa Ibom State on Sunday.
Mr Nnatube summoned him to report at the SSS Command in Uyo on Monday over a purported viral audio conversation which he alleged that the journalist had with a medical practitioner in Akwa Ibom State on the current situation in the state regarding COVID-19.
“As law-abiding citizens and out of courtesy, we encouraged our client to report to the SSS even though we are aware that Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) guarantees citizens the right to privacy, including privacy of telephone conversations. We are also aware that Section 39 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of expression,” Mr Effiong wrote.
However, during interrogation by security agencies, the SSS in Uyo became agitated the moment Mr Carter reported at their Command along with the Deputy Head of Inibehe Effiong Chambers, Mr. Augustine Asuquo, Mr Effiong added.
Nevertheless, the Director of Operations and other officers of the SSS disallowed the legal representative to witness the interrogation of our client.
“The officers did not only insist that our colleague should leave their premises, they physically escorted him out of the SSS Command.
“The Director of Operations later called our colleague on the phone to demand that he should handover the PRIVATE mobile phone of our client to them. He made it abundantly clear that the SSS must see the phone of our client which he claimed will enable them to extract the record and details of a purported audio conversation they alleged our client had with a medical doctor.
“According to him, the DSS operatives also demanded that Mr Carter should furnish them with the phone number of the said doctor.
Mr Effiong stated that since their illegal demands were not met, the Director of Operations became more hostile towards Mr Carter.
Meanwhile, Mr Effiong personally called Mr. Nnatube to express concerns over the illegal actions of the SSS towards but he became hostile the moment he was told that it was illegal for the SSS to demand the production of Mr Cater’s phone.
“The Director of Operations hung-up on me and has refused to pick my calls since then.
“From all indications, we reasonably believe that SSS officers are torturing Mr. Kufre Carter in their custody in their effort to extract a “confessional statement” from our client. The SSS is torturing our client for him to handover his private mobile phone to them.”
The operatives of the DSS invaded Mr. Carter’s residence to look for his phone but did not find it.
“We are aware that the Akwa Ibom State Government instigated the SSS to hunt, arrest, torture and detain our client over the alleged audio record after facing increasing public criticisms over their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
“From credible information at our disposal, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, and other officials of the state government are involved in this shameful and illegal actions against our client.”
The human rights lawyer then called for the immediate release of the detained journalist.
“Since Nigeria is a country governed by laws and not the Banana Republic, we ask the SSS in Akwa Ibom State to immediately retrace from their illegal actions and release Kufre Carter forthwith, or to charge him to court first thing on Tuesday.
“It is a sad commentary that while other States are struggling to curtail the spread of coronavirus, Governor Udom Emmanuel and the Akwa Ibom State Government have become extremely paranoid about public criticisms and are now resorting to primitive use of force to clampdown on innocent citizens.
“Kufre Carter has not eaten since he reported at the SSS Command in the morning.”