IBB’s statement: Ogunye writes Buhari, asks him to call police IG to order

Human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to order.

Ogunye said Idris’s decision to declare Kassim Afegbua wanted for releasing a statement on behalf of ex-military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, was improper.

He said the media aide to former dictator had done nothing wrong that could lead to him being declared wanted like a criminal.

His letter reads in full:

The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, must be called to order.

At this point under the Buhari Administration, we really must ask the question whether the affairs of State have become so rudderless that any official of State in the Executive Branch of Government at the centre can do anything without being called to order.

I have read in the print media today that the Inspector General of Police in Nigeria, Ibrahim Idris, has declared Kazeem Afegbua wanted and ordered his immediate arrest over the statement he issued on behalf of former military President of Nigeria, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, as the Media Adviser.

The statement declaring him wanted states, “the IGP has ordered the arrest of Kashim Afegbua for making false statements, defamation of character and for an act capable of instigating public disturbance throughout the country.”

For us, this is not about Kazeem Afegbua. It is about the dangerous road to civilian dictatorship that our much raped and abused country is, again, taking; by this action of the IGP to kill the right to freedom of expression.

We are not so much interested in what IBB said or what he didn’t say. It is the brightness of the day that brings forth the adder. We are concerned about the role the police is now being allowed to play in our “democracy.” The Sunday Adewusi’s reckleness in the Nigeria Police Force of the Shehu Shagari’s Second Republic is a terrible example that the Police Force must not be allowed to re-enact.

Giving false information to the police is a criminal offence. But Afegbua’s statement was not made to the police. It was an opinion that he and his principal have the right to make in a democracy, under the rule of law. Even if Babangida were to unequivocally deny the statement, and goes ahead to lodge a “criminal complaint” about its falsity with the police, that step would not, in law, make Afegbua’s “false statement” a criminal act.

For the alleged offence of “defamation of character”, it is our view that even if Afegbua’s statement were false in every material particular and it has put words that IBB did not intend to utter in IBB’s mouth, and so the published words allegedly are deemed have brought IBB into public disrepute and opprobrium, the police cannot exercise the right to sue for defamation of character (libel) on behalf of IBB. IBB and the police are not one and the same. The assumed libel, in the circumstances, is a tort. A civil wrong. Not a criminal act.

In case the IGP is keen on improving on his personal scores-settling credentials and precedents with Senator Misau, by latching on to the colonial statutory relic of “criminal libel or defamation, or sedition,” the case law in Nigeria today is that the offence of sedition against “those in authority and power” is unconstitutional, being a criminal offence that curtails the wholesome enjoyment of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the press. We refer here to the Court of Appeal’ decision in Chief Arthur Nwanko v The State, 1985, 6 NCLR, 228, and other similar decisions .

In any case, we must ask the IGP, whose interest is he protecting? Is it the interest of President Buhari? Was President Buhari criminally defamed by the statement? Was he? And did he give a directive that Afegbua be arrested?

Is the action of the IGP overzealous to please the president, or are we to assume that a replacement for the IGP is already on the table and the IGP has to work this extra hard to dissuade consideration for his replacement?

This questions become necessary in the light of the recent unwarranted arrest of the Bring Back our Girls crusaders. The similarity of the knee-jerk approach is too glaring to miss.

And for the nebulous charge of committing “an act that is capable of instigating public disturbance throughout the country,” we are lost for words.

We have read the statement of Kazeem Afegbua, issued purportedly on behalf of IBB. Using the test of “the reasonable man” we are not able to come to the conclusion that the statement is capable of instigating public disturbance in the country.

Only recently after the killings in Benue State, the IGP, in a careless manner that could further escalate the unfortunate pogrom in that state, tagged the killings in Benue a “communal crisis,” in a blatant exoneration of the parties that had come forward to own the mayhem.

That statement of the IGP was a good example of a speech that could cause public disturbance.

We hereby call for the withdrawal of the police declaration. It is offensive and undemocratic.

Can our silent president call the IGP to order, please!

Source: Daily Post

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