The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the arrest of Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, over the travails of a journalist, Rotimi Jolayemi aka Oba Akewi.
The group made the call in a Tuesday statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf.
Nigerian news had reported how the police charged the journalist for causing “annoyance” to the minister through a social media post. He was charged 17 days after he turned himself in.
According to another rights group, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Jolayemi had been ordered arrested for reciting a poem critical of the minister on the radio.
The group stated that Alhaji Lai Mohammed had a hand in the arrest of the wife of Mr. Jolayemi, Mrs. Dorcas Jolayemi, and two of his brothers who were kept in detention for eight days, nine days and two days respectively as hostages before the journalist turned himself in.
HURIWA said the reported act of detaining the journalist’s family members in his place amounted to hostage-taking and armed kidnapping, calling for Mohammed and the Kwara State Police Commissioner who ordered their arrest and detention to be tried for such before a competent court.
“HURIWA hereby calls on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to order the immediate arrest of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and the Kwara State Commissioner of Police for reportedly whisking away innocent persons and detaining them only because their brother was alleged to have read a poem considered offensive by the minister.
“This is the elevation of the culture of impunity and criminality for officials of government to resort to self-help measures against a perceived opponent. This is a violation of Section 15(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 which obliges the Nigerian government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
“We demand the immediate release of the journalist Jolayemi Rotimi and the payment of compensation for the arbitrary detention and illegal arrests of the Journalist and his siblings and biological Mother on the illegal order of the minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed,” the statement read in part.
This is just as it called on the media to blacklist the minister if he failed to resign his position immediately.
Reiterating that the minister’s “crimes” must not go unpunished, the group vowed to petition the governments of the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany to urge them to impose a travel ban on him.