Lawyer and activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order an investigation of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Lawal K. Idris, and relieve him of his position over the detention of two online journalists and brothers, Messrs Daniel and Tim Elombah.
The publisher and editor are the duo of elombah.com, a UK-based online news medium.
Mr. Keyamo made the call in an open petition to the president. The lawyer, whose law firm represents the journalists, alleged that on 1 January, the IGP ordered the men and officers of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FARS) to invade the family compound of the Elombahs in Edoji, Uruagu Nnewi, Anambra State.
The invasion, he said, resulted in the arrest of six persons, including the journalists.
"They were handcuffed like common criminals and driven to the SARS office in Nnewi. They were subsequently taken to the SARS headquarters in Awkuzu, near Awka. Up till this point, our clients were not informed of the reason(s) for their arrests," said Mr. Keyamo.
At the SARS headquarters, he added, those arrested were handed over to other armed officers, who identified themselves as being from the Special Tactical Squad (STS, which works directly in the IGP's office). Subsequently, the lawyer said the journalists and Mr. Izuchukwu Elombah were then taken to Abuja handcuffed.
On arrival in Abuja, they were taking through grueling interrogation over an article published on opinionnigeria.com, another blog. The article was titled "IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies.”
"The article in question was not published by our clients’ blog, elombah.com and our clients denied any link to the author, one Ebiowei Dickson. Daniel and Izuchukwu Elombah were eventually released on bail, but have been made to report constantly since then," wrote the lawyer.
Later, however, he stated further, the police secured a remand order to detain Mr. Tim Elombah for seven days, which expired more than a week ago. As such, he argued that the police are holding him illegally. He also said he has received information that the police have prepared a charge against the Elombah brothers and will soon arraign them in court.
He described the situation of the journalists as shocking because the IGP has used a state institution to fight a purely private grievance.
"If at all, an offense was committed by the said published article (which is not conceded), a simple civil invitation to our clients would have sufficed. But to use such strong-arm tactics to reign in our clients was a gross abuse of his office and an employment of stone-age tactics in pursuing his personal grievance," he said.
He contended that the IGP has further exhibited malice and personal vendetta by refusing to release Mr. Tim Elombah after the expiration of the remand order secured by the police.
"Such practices should be clearly unacceptable under your watch. A situation where your appointees ride roughshod over innocent citizens or use the positions to which you appointed them to settle personal scores should, ordinarily, rankle you and cause you to intervene. It should be more so as the substance of the matter has to do with the criticism of the personal life of a public officer by the Fourth Estate of the Realm, a practice that has come to be recognized as one of the components of a thriving democracy," Mr. Keyamo told the president.
He argued that if a public officer cannot tolerate criticisms, he has no business in public office.
"It is in the light of the above we urge you to use your good offices to order an investigation into this crass display of power and indiscretion by the Inspector-General of Police and mete out appropriate sanctions against him, which may include the extreme step of relieving him of his position," the lawyer said.