HURIWA condemns Okey Ndibe's arrest; warns F.G against media repression

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The weekend's arrest and detention of the United States based University don and media columnist of Nigerian origin Okey Ndibe by the States Security Services (SSS) at the Murtallah Mohammed Airport Lagos has been condemned by the Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) even as the Rights group has advised the President Dr. Good luck Jonathan to direct the operatives of the nation's security agencies to respect the tenets of democracy, fundamental rights of citizens and to return forthwith the international passports confiscated from Professor Ndibe and apologize to him for this unwarranted attack on his fundamental freedoms.

The group has also raised alarm of government's plot to commence a systematic clampdown on the media and warned the Federal government against acts that may signpost emerging dictatorship in the country because of the damaging implication that full blown tyranny, intolerance of dissenting voices and media repression would have on the nation's democracy.

HURIWA, a democracy inclined and development focused non- governmental organization in a statement jointly endorsed by its National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the national Director of Media Affairs Ms. Zainab Yusuf said the arbitrary arrest and detention of Professor Okey Ndibe by the States Security Services (SSS) and recent media statements credited to the Presidential Adviser on media Mr. Imma Niboro lambasting Al-Jazeera television over its recent coverage of the spate of bomb explosions in Nigeria signals government's growing intolerance for media freedom.

Specifically, the presidency, in the wake of recent spate of the unfortunate bomb explosions in Jos and Abuja, blamed some international media like Al-Jazeera for allegedly acting a Script meant to antagonize the President. “This is a grand design by the Arab News Network Al-Jazeera to cause chaos in the country….,” the Presidential Adviser had stated in a widely published media statement.

The Rights group which raised alarm of what it identified as emerging scenario of federal government's tendency to muzzle and intimidate free press in Nigeria said the weekend ambush and arbitrary arrest and brief detention of the Nigerian-born but United States based prolific writer Professor Okey Ndibe is a breach of Section 22 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which obliges the nation's media to become the conscience of the nation and act

as watchdog to ensure the institutionalization of viable democracy in the country. The group also criticizes the confiscation of Professor Ndibe's traveling documents as a flagrant violation of his constitutionally protected fundamental freedom of movement.

HURIWA said: “we in the Human Rights Community are worried that President Good luck Jonathan is about to rubbish his widely acknowledged disposition to respect

media freedom since assuming the highest political office in the land. We are concerned that over zealous operatives of the nation's security community if not checked will make nonsense of one of the few records achieved by the current federal administration of Dr. Jonathan which is the impressive respect for media freedoms”.

“The arrest of Professor Okey Ndibe for allegedly expressing his opinions freely on the parlous state of the nation's economy and the worsening security situation in Nigeria amounted to a total breach of section 22 of the constitution which provides that the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the People”, HURIWA stressed.

Besides, the Rights group said the manner of the arrest of Professor Ndibe is synonymous with what obtained in the reprehensible era of military regime and amounts to 'illegal state- sponsored ambush' of a citizen of Nigeria.

HURIWA also said the practice of unconstitutional ambush of certain citizens at the nation's airports by the State Security Services (SSS) must be halted and consigned to the dustbin of history since Nigeria is now a democracy and has therefore said bye -bye to military dictatorship and media repression.

On the veiled threat issued to some international media and especially the Arab cable television - Al-Jazeera, the group said: “we are convinced that the most civilized way of seeking redress if wronged is for the Federal government not to demonize the media house but to proceed to challenge the alleged infraction against the person of the president in the competent court of law”.