A Nigerian woman residing in the United Kingdom, Perfecta Da Zion Umoh, has accused the Akwa Ibom State government of illegally detaining her husband.
Perfecta said her husband, Da Zion Umoh, who criticises poor performance of government officials in the state, was sued by the deputy governor on charges of conspiracy and threat to life over one of his Facebook posts.
According to her, Da Zion was arrested on December 22, 2020 after honouring an invitation to discuss a petition at Ikot Ekpene Police Station; three days after their wedding.
She claimed he was arrested without warrant and locked up at Akwa Ibom State Police Headquarters jail for three days without being charged to court or granted bail.
"The police claimed the arrest was made based on a petition written against Da Zion Umoh by the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State," she submitted.
Perfecta said her husband was released after the police seized his passport, only for him to be rearrested on December 30 upon honouring an invitation by the assistant commissioner of police for a ‘discussion’.
She said her husband had taken ill before then and was just recovering when he was detained and that despite his lawyers’ presentation of his medical report, Umoh was not released.
She wrote, "In December 2020, I travelled with my husband, then fiancé, Da Zion Umoh (who is resident in Texas, USA) to Nigeria to get married.
"My husband is popular on Facebook for consistently calling out bad governance and nonperforming government officials in Akwa Ibom State, and had in the past criticised the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State for his nonperformance. This is in addition to lending a helping hand to people in need and actively working to secure freedom for people being oppressed by the state in the form of illegal detentions.
"We got married on 19th December, 2020. Three days after, on 22nd December, 2020, my husband, Da Zion Umoh, was invited to discuss a petition at Ikot Ekpene Police Station. As a law abiding individual, he honoured the invitation. He was then arrested without warrant and locked up at Akwa Ibom State Police Headquarters jail (state CID) for three days. He was neither charged to court nor allowed bail. The police claimed the arrest was made based on a petition written against Da Zion Umoh by the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State.
"On the evening of 24th December, 2020, Da Zion Umoh was allowed bail by the police with one of the conditions of his bail being seizure of his US passport. The police had no court order to back up this request for Zion’s passport but because of the conditions of the overcrowded jail and our concern for Zion’s health in these coronavirus times, we handed over Zion’s US passport to the police under duress.
"On 27th December, Zion became very ill and was taken to the hospital the next day. He was admitted for the day and required to continue with the bed rest and return to the hospital for the rest of the prescribed injectables over the next couple of days.
"On 29th December, Zion was required to return to the police station, we informed the police that he was ill. Men of the police were instructed to visit the hospital and verify this, which they did.
"On 30th December, Zion asked me to return to the UK as he believed it was no longer safe for me in Nigeria. On the same 30th, Zion was invited by the assistant commissioner of police to the police station for a ‘discussion’. He went to the station from the hospital and was illegally arrested again, despite his lawyers presenting his medical report showing he was not in good health to be held in the unsanitary overcrowded jail. He was rearrested even though he had not violated any conditions of his earlier bail. The police still have his US passport.
"Da Zion Umoh was arraigned in a magistrate court the next day and the magistrate was presented with bogus charges of conspiracy and threat to life, they said the deputy governor felt threatened by one of the posts he made.
"The magistrate decided (as we already expected), that she could not hear the charges and ordered Zion to be remanded in prison; she allowed the state 14 days to file information on their charges in the right court. Da Zion Umoh was then remanded in prison for nothing other than paper charges.
"14 days have come and gone, the state appeared before the magistrate empty-handed on 15 January, 2021, to say they had been dealing with the US embassy and not had time to prepare information on their bogus charges. They were allowed more time to file information on their charges while Zion remained in custody.
"We already knew that this was the delay tactic the state planned to employ; they have used this to unjustly hold other dissenting voices in Akwa Ibom State in custody for months and months.
"On the 26th January, 2021, we went for Zion’s bail hearing and were informed that the state had now filed a new even more bogus charge of terrorism, dropping the old – still not supported – charges; the bail hearing could not proceed.
"Zion’s rights have been repeatedly abused since his first arrest on 22nd December 2020, three days after our wedding. Akwa Ibom State government has decided to use taxpayers’ money and our communal resources to play the childish game of conspiring and engaging in illegalities to keep Da Zion Umoh quiet.
"Why so afraid of Da Zion Umoh? Truth is bitter and weak men fear it. We are not fazed. We will prevail. Prior to this, I’ve mostly been quiet on social media but I feel a bit at ease because I’m in the UK now, " she told SaharaReporters.