Inibehe Effiong, the lawyer to detained journalist, Kufre Carter, has accused the federal and state governments of using the Department of State Services (DSS) in whatever way they pleased.
He stated this in reaction to remarks made on Wednesday by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on the arrest and continued detention of Kufre.
The International Press Centre (IPC) had called for the release of the journalist.
In a statement on Thursday, Effiong said Mohammed failed to explain to Nigerians, the “embarrassing and utterly abusive deployment of the SSS, a supposed intelligence gathering agency, to arrest a citizen over a purported case of defamation”.
Effiong recalled that the journalist was arrested on Monday, 27th April, 2020 over a purported private phone conversation which the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Commissioner for Health, Dominic Ukpong, alleged to be defamatory.
He insisted that Mohammed’s comments at the press briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, relied entirely on a one sided, false and misleading narrative painted to him by the Akwa Ibom State Government.
Effiong quoted the minister as saying that Kufre had a phone interview with an anonymous doctor on the response of the government to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The minister said purported interview was not aired on XL FM where our client works, but he claimed that the interview was posted on Facebook by our client. This according to him, was the reason for the arrest and detention of our client. We are waiting for the Government of Akwa Ibom State to argue this in the court of law. That is where we will reply them”, the rights activist noted.
“We are pleased that the Minister from his findings, did not uncover any criminal act committed by our client to justify the vicious actions taken by the state government and the SSS against him. We are also pleased with the fact that the Minister did not find any legal basis to support the arrest and detention of our client.
“The Minister as the spokesperson for the federal government should have asked the SSS what their business is in a purported case of defamation. It is to the shame of this country that such scandalous and abusive deployment of an agency created to gather intelligence and protect the country has been swept under the carpet.
“If there are no consequences for the meddlesome actions of the SSS in this case, it will further erode the change mantra propagated by the Buhari administration. The Minister admitted that he is in contact with Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State in respect of this case. We implore him to ask the Attorney General about the plans made by the state government to fully compensate our client for the gross violation of his fundamental rights.
“Since the Minister alluded to the fact that our client is unable to perfect his bail, we wish to inform the Minister that on Thursday, 30th April, 2020 (a day after our client was arraigned before a Chief Magistrates’ Court), we filed an application at the High Court of Akwa Ibom State seeking the variation of the bail conditions imposed on our client.
“Thankfully, Monday, the 11th day of May, 2020 has been fixed for the hearing of our application (motion) before the State High Court for variation of the bail conditions. While we appreciate the concerns and the efforts of the Minister, we implore him to also take interest in the manipulation and gross abuse of the SSS by the Akwa Ibom State Government.
“Since the SSS is an agency of the federal government, there should be consequences for the travesty and intolerable abuse of the SSS by the Akwa Ibom State Government. Impunity should not be condoned. For records, we are confident that the Akwa Ibom State Judiciary will do justice to this case, and that our client will be vindicated at the end of the day,” he said.