Monday Ubani, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section On Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) has called for the immediate release of Private Hannah Sofiyat Akinlabi, the female soldier who was detained for accepting a marriage proposal from a male corps member.
Ubani, in a statement issued on Tuesday, condemned the operations of the military in recent times, particularly with the way it illegally retained citizens for an indiscriminate number of days with scant or no regard to the provisions of the constitution.
He stated that it was imperative to remind leaders of these institutions that Nigeria was not under any military dictatorship but under civilian democracy since 1999; that the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, particularly Chapter 4, guarantee the right to personal liberty, right to a fair hearing, right to dignity, right to movement among others.
His statement partly reads, “When one thought that we have seen the worst concerning Cute Abiola's case, yet another wild "drama" in terms of brazen violation of a right of a citizen is reported to be happening with one Private Hannah Sofiat who accepted marriage proposal from a male corps member.
“The institution implicated here is the Nigerian Military Authority. Again this young female officer is said to have violated military rules and regulations. She was detained after video clips of her being proposed to by a male corps member at the National Youth Service Corps orientation camp in Yikpata, Kwara State went viral on social media. One Captain M.M. Abdullahi, Kwara State NYSC Camp Commandant was alleged to have ordered her detention in the detention facility in Ilorin pending further investigations.
“Part of the offence she is allegedly guilty of includes but not limited to an amorous relationship with a trainee, not yet eligible for marriage as she was expected to have served for three years before she can qualify for marriage and romancing while in army uniform plus other sundry offences.
“Whilst one cannot interrogate the rights of these agencies to maintain discipline in their organisations, one is astonished at the alacrity with which these citizens are thrown into illegal detention for an indiscriminate number of days with scant or no regard to the provisions of the constitution that guarantees several basic rights to the citizens including those who serve these security institutions.
“In case those who are in the leadership of these institutions have forgotten or are not in the know, may we remind them that (1) We are not under any military dictatorship but under civilian democracy since 1999.
“(2) The provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, particularly Chapter 4, guarantees right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, right to dignity, right to movement etc. These rights are in existence and have not been abrogated.
“(3) No one today can be punished of any crime in Nigeria that is not properly defined by our Criminal or Penal Code.
“If these citizens who are employees of these institutions have committed any crime or breached any of their administrative rules or regulations, we demand fair, transparent and open trial process in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is the groundnorm of our jurisprudence. Anything short of that, is unacceptable, illegal and remains questionable.
“The human rights community finds it difficult to accept the fact that a citizen can be taken hostage in an opaque manner and it has to take some days before the authority can confirm that they are the one holding the citizen hostage in their facility.
“So also is the idea of throwing a young military officer into detention simply because she accepted marriage proposal which is approved by God and laws of the land.
“Assuming but not conceding that she breached any of their regulations, can she not be punished without throwing her into detention for an indefinite period? What makes her marriage acceptance too offensive that warrants these draconian measures being meted out to her? Can't our leaders and institutions sometimes play the role of "God" just as we see in other countries in forgiving people when their error is not too grave to affect national interest? Have the country descended into fascism and dictatorship where leaders are banishing joy, happiness and smiles as if we are in North Korea? Is Nigeria now the Banana Republic?
“We hereby demand that the young military officer be released forthwith from her illegal detention with an apology for the undue embarrassment caused her and her prospective suitor. Peoples' lives should not be destroyed under the guise of enforcing discipline. For the umpteenth time, may we remind ourselves that we are in a civilian democracy.”