The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has decried the continued detention of its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), declaring the development as a manifestation of dictatorial rule as well as disdain for the rule of law by President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Mr. Metuh was arrested on Tuesday and has been detained by EFCC operatives who say a firm tied to the PDP spokesman had received N1.4 billion from defense funds diverted by former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

In a statement released today and signed by Victor Kwon, its national legal adviser, the PDP accused the ruling party of “an appetite to gag the opposition” for holding Mr. Metuh for several days without filing court charges. The PDP party stated that the EFCC had violated Mr. Metuh’s constitutionally guaranteed right to liberty. Mr. Kwon condemned the EFCC’s reliance on a purported “holding charge” signed by a magistrate to justify the continued detention of the PDP spokesman beyond the statutory period allowed by law. He added that the development amounted to total violation of the constitution and a series of rulings by Nigeria’s courts. The PDP drew “the attention of all Nigerians and the international community to this illegal clamp-down on the opposition spokesman by the EFCC, using a purported holding charge said to have been derived from a magistrate court.”

According to Mr. Kwon, a holding charge implies “arrest before investigation” instead of “investigation before arrest,” adding that several courts had frowned on such an aberration and abuse of judicial process, which the party saw as a breach of section 35 (1), (4), (5a) of Nigeria’s constitution. Mr. Kwon stated that the opposition PDP was particularly worried that Mr. Metuh was “being inhumanly kept in an underground cell where he is daily threatened by officials, who we gathered, have been mounting pressure on him to accept guilt of fictitious figures and implicate PDP leaders.” Implying that the Buhari administration was guiding the EFCC on its harassment of Mr. Metuh, Mr. Kwon alleged that EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu “visited the Presidential Villa at least twice since Chief Metuh was arrested and detained by the commission, ostensibly to get further directives on the case. “We invite the world to note that President Buhari's election promise of fighting corruption has now been turned into a man-hunt of PDP leaders, while known corrupt APC leaders are being shielded by the system and rewarded with ministerial positions and other government appointments.

“Our nation is now being turned into a police state with its inherent constitutional violations and infringement on rights of citizens, a scenario which poses grave danger to national stability and survival of our democracy.” Mr. Kwon warned that the clampdown on the PDP’s leaders, especially Mr. Metuh, could trigger “tension and looming political crisis,” insisting that Mr. Metuh was arrested for criticizing the Buhari-led APC government’s “dictatorial pronouncements and actions.” Mr. Kwon’s statement added: “Our teeming members across the country have so far exercised reasonable restraint, but we caution that there is a limit to what they can stomach in the face of this brazen persecution of our spokesman. The President Buhari-led APC government and the EFCC should therefore hold themselves responsible should there be any breakdown of law and order in the land over this matter.”

The PDP demanded that the EFCC immediately release Mr. Metuh “or charge him to court in line with the provisions of our laws if it strongly feels it has a case against him. “Nigerians cannot afford to return to the era of dictatorship where constitutional provisions, respect for lawful processes and personal freedom of citizens under the law are trampled upon. Their response to this might come with very dire consequences.”

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