The Ahmed Makarfi faction of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has condemned what it calls “the untoward, unconstitutional and indiscriminate” arrests of its members and supporters nationwide.
It said the arrests were often on phantom charges by the government of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
A statement by the faction’s spokesperson, Dayo Adeyeye, on Monday recalled that the state chairman of the PDP in Jigawa State, Salisu Mamuda, was arrested on the February 4, for criticising the Jigawa State Government against “spending N400 million Naira) to entertain defectors from the PDP to APC”.
Mr. Adeyeye also recalled also that a governorship aspirant on the platform of the party in Lagos State during the 2015 guber election, Babatunde Gbadamosi, was arrested by the State Security Service on February 17 “on account of exposing the Forex racketeering by the APC led Government at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN”.
“Also on March 3, 2017, Alhaji Abdulrahman Mohammed, a PDP Chieftain in Kogi State was arrested on trump-up charges and detained illegally for criticizing the wrong policies, misgovernance and nonperformance of Governor Yahaya Bello.
“Just yesterday, April 9, 2017, Mr. Austin Usman Okai, a PDP Youth leader and frontline critic of the Yahaya Bello’s APC led Government in Kogi State was arrested by men of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, on phantom petitions by some cronies of the Governor,” Mr. Adeyeye said.
He also said the party had information of indiscriminate arrest and detention of Nigerians in Kaduna, Edo, Nasarawa amongst others at both the Federal and state levels controlled by the governing APC.
He described the alleged actions of the ruling party as “absurd, disheartening and a serious threat to our hard earned democracy.”
“Nigerians cannot and should not be arrested and detained indiscriminately for criticizing and holding government accountable,” he said.
He also said constructive criticism is the primary responsibility of opposition in a democracy all over the world and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“We have also been alerted to the news of the Federal Government of Nigeria planning to tap mobile telephone lines and hacking of other devises of citizens as a way of harassing and intimidating them into silence.
“These and other unholy practices of this administration will henceforth be resisted by all Nigerians. We will mobilize Nigerians at all levels to fight against the use of arms in a democratic system to ridicule and intimidate citizens of this Country.
“We will no longer tolerate this high handedness of the APC and we therefore demand the unconditional and immediate release of Mr. Austin Usman Okai and all our members in several detention centers of security agencies across the Country,” he said.
Mr. Adeyeye said the world should take note of “the serious issues of human rights violation in Nigeria since the APC Administration took over power in May 29, 2015.
“We call on all civil rights organization across the Country and in the Diaspora to rise to this occasion. Our democracy is in serious danger and the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) must be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order as a result of these undemocratic behaviours,” he said.
The Kogi government responded with a statement Monday, urging the PDP to “face their crisis and the mass defection that has hit their party through the ongoing membership drive of the All Progressives Congress.”
It said the party’s “voice on the arrest of Austin Okai is mischievous, uninformed and misdirected.”
“Austin Okai is a citizen of Nigeria who has rights. But his rights stops where the rights of others start. Freedom of expression is not meant to jeorpadize and injure the integrity of others. If security agencies find his criticisms untoward and inciting, are we saying they do not have the power to arrest him for questioning? We don’t know if Okai is actually a PDP member because we have pictures of him in APC apparels. PDP’s accusation is a tyranny of freedom on its own,” a statement by Fanwo Kingsley, the governor’s aide, said.
The statement said the Bello administration in Kogi State was fully in support of thorough investigation into Mr. Okai’s activities.