Nation's Editors: Reps To Investigate Arrest
ABUJA, October 13, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives today directed its joint committees on justice, human rights, police as well as media and public affairs to investigate the recent arrest of some editors of The Nation newspapers by operatives of the police and State Security Service (SSS), describing it as 'crude and unacceptable’.
It also mandated the joint committee to report their findings within two weeks.
The House condemned the ‘Gestapo’ manner the journalists were arrested describing it as a ‘return to the dark days of the military’ where media houses were closed down at the slightest provocation.
This followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance sponsored by the chairman, committee on media and public affairs, Hon. Zakari Mohammed (PDP, Kwara) who drew the attention of the House to the arrest of the senior editors, warning that the development was a dangerous trend that must not be allowed to thrive under a democratic government.
In his submission, Mohammed who condemned the manner of the arrests allegedly on the orders of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim and Director General of the SSS, Mr. Ekpenyong Ita Ekpenyong, argued that if the trend was allowed to continue, it will take the country back to the dark days of military dictatorship where, according to him, the rule of law was relegated to the back ground.
“I want this House to look at this matter very seriously as a matter of urgent national importance. The Journalists’ rights have been infringed upon and if the trend is allowed to continue, it will take us back to the era of military dictatorship,” he said.
According to him, the survival of the country’s democracy was predicated on a free press, advising that the police and other security agencies should instead channel their energy in tackling the insecurity challenges confronting the nation rather than visiting their frustration on journalists.
But the motion did not enjoy smooth passage as it was vehemently opposed by the trio of Hon. Simon Arabo Yakubu [Kaduna] Gogo Bright Tamuno (PDP, Rivers) and Warman Ogoriba (PDP, Bayelsa). They argued that the matter should not be taken by the House because it was subjudiced since preparations were underway to arraign the journalists in court. Their argument was however countered by the superior arguments of the Deputy House leader, Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta), Hon. Emmanuel Jime (PDP, Benue) and Hon. John Enoh (PDP, Cross River) who quoted various constitutional provisions to back their positions.
In their separate contributions, Hon. Samson Osagie (ACN, Edo) and Hon. Samuel Babatunde Adejere (ACN, Lagos) decried the action of the security agencies insisting that the ‘illegal arrests’ were reminiscent of the nation’s past military tradition which thrives in Gestapo and “where arrests were carried out without a warrant.”
Osagie warned that, “This must not be allowed to thrive in a constitutional democracy. Security agencies must do things in accordance with the law. We as a parliament must ensure that our human rights record does not plummet.”
Also supporting the motion, Hon. John Dyegh (ACN, Benue) and Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa (ACN, Lagos) condemned the action and warned that the security agencies should not be allowed to stifle the media. Dabiri-Erewa decried the arrest saying the editors were kept in the same cell with hardened criminals ‘as if they were common criminals.’
In the words of Dyegh, “Their action will stifle democracy. The Press is an arm of democracy and if the press is shackled, democracy is dead. The IG should be called before the House to explain his action.”
Udoh Ibeji (PDP, Abia) in his contribution said the action taken by the Police is an embarrassment to democracy.
“If we cannot protect our Press from harassment, we have failed. If the Police say they are arresting the men for releasing classified papers, who determines what is classified? Action must be taken. If the Police don’t know how to do their jobs, we should invite them here and teach them how to do it,” he said.