A Bayelsa based community advocacy group, Ondewari Health, Education and Environmental Project (OHEEP), has sent a petition to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ,) over the alleged arrest and continued detention of Chief. Jones Abiri, the publisher of Weekly Source by Department of State Services, (DSS) since 2016.
OHEEP said the publisher of a community newspaper who is also a Law student was arrested on July 21, 2016, at his Yenagoa office and has since then been in the custody of the DSS for alleged involvement in militancy.
The DSS has so far failed to act on calls by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to release the publisher or arraigned him in court for trial over the alleged offense.
OHEEP petition to CPJ was signed by over 17 members of the Odenwari community led by the Project Officer and Project Director, Mr. Tontiemote Yeiyei and Mr. Alagoa Morris.
The group noted that Abiri is their kinsman and that no member of his immediate or extended family is aware of where he is currently being detained by the DSS.
The group also said it is doubtful whether the publisher is alive or in good health.
“Family members and concerned indigenes of the community are, to say the least, traumatized as Jones Abiri condition and whereabouts remained unknown.
“This is especially as he was never known to be associated with criminals or known as violent persons or of criminal disposition.
“The appeal by OHEEP and some concerned natives of Odenwari is predicated on the fact that Jones Abiri has not been known or identified as criminal or violent fellow community folk.
“In view of that premise and as law-abiding citizens, we are emboldened by the 1999 constitutional provision of the fundamental Human Rights of every citizen of the Federal Republic Nigeria.
“They include other international and continental instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Right.
“We request that Jones Abiri be treated in accordance with the provisions of the law if he has committed any crime against the Federal Government of Nigeria. We demand due process of related laws.
“It is in the interest of the community and above premise that we, whose signatures and thumbprints appear here are soliciting for assistance from our esteemed organization.
“Also, by extension, other Human Rights Organizations should take up this matter with the relevant authorities in Nigeria.
“We, the undersigned, believe that the innocent shouldn’t suffer in their innocence and that even alleged offenders should not be denied constitutional protection of fair hearing before Courts of competent jurisdiction.” The petitioners said.