- A group, Grassroot Mobilisers for Buhari, has appealed to information minister, Lai Mohammed, to facilitate the release of a journalist in DSS cell
- He was arrested for publishing an alleged libelous report against Petroleum Minister, Ibe Kachikwu
- The journalist has been in DSS cell for over 90 days in Abuja
A group under the aegis of Grassroot Mobilisers for Buhari, south south zone, has appealed to the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, to intervene and influence the release of the publisher of Ughelli Times Magazine in Delta, Prince Daniel Ekiugbo, who was whisked away from his private residence on October 25, 2016 by a crack team of men of the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS).
The appeal was made by the Director of media and publicity of the group, Barrister Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, where he said though the DSS is saddled with the responsibility of cracking down on criminal elements perceived to threaten the unity and peace of the nation, the discharge of its functions must not infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens under investigation by the service.
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Oghenesivbe further asserted that Prince Ekiugbo was said to have published certain offensive and libelous articles tending to portray the minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu, in a bad light as reported, hence the suspect was arrested for questioning nearly three months ago.
The story, according to Oghenesivbe, took a different twist when the Delta state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) intervened, prompting a protest visit of about 50 practicing journalists led by its chairman, Comrade Nobert Chiazor to the Asaba office of the DSS.
But the protesting team was informed that the suspect also got his fingers soiled in other criminal activities linking him to certain criminal elements involved in militancy and pipeline vandalization in the Niger Delta.
Oghenesivbe explained that though certain offences against the Nigerian nation are not bailable, he said the order for continuous detention must be issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, adding that in the case of Prince Ekiugbo, the DSS has not been able to bring charges against him to enable the court examine the basic ingredients of the alleged offences so as to determine whether or not Prince Ekiugbo deserves bail.
In the light of the above, the group said it is not comfortable with the continuous detention of a citizen protected by chapter IV of the constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and in the same token urged the high command of the DSS to urgently do the needful to protect and advance the principles of rule of law, natural justice and good conscience.
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Oghenesivbe and his group are demanding for either the unconditional release of Prince Ekiugbo since no charges have been brought against him or in the alternative charge him to a court of competent jurisdiction where his alleged offences could be viewed with the eyes of the law to determine his freedom or otherwise.
The group is of the opinion that petty political squabbles within Delta APC family must not be overstretched so as not to delay the genuine reconciliation among vexed stakeholders in timely preparation for greater tasks ahead, including the takeover of Delta by the ruling party in 2019.
The group therefore called on Lai Mohammed, the national president of the NUJ as well as the Director-General of the DSS to review Prince Ekiugbo's case and ensure that the rule of law prevails to stop the continued infringement on Ekiugbo's fundamental rights to liberty, fair hearing and freedom of speech.