The reactions generated by a statement issued by a former military ruler, Ibrahim Babaginda, on the hardship in Nigeria continues to generate reactions.

On Monday, reports emerged that the police had ordered the arrest of Kassim Afegbua, the spokesman to Babangida, who published the statement.

That decision has been condemned by a rights group.

“Declaring Kassim Afegbua wanted simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression is the hallmark of an oppressive government,” the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said on Tuesday. 

It strongly condemned the intimidation and harassment by the police.

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The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, last night declared Afegbua wanted over the statement he issued on Sunday.

Idris ordered the arrest of Afegbua for “making false statements, defamation of character, and for an act capable of instigating public disturbance.”

But SERAP in a statement by its deputy director, Timothy Adewale, said, “everyone has the right to speak out about political or other public interest issues.

“To do so cannot qualify as ‘making false statements’.

“And it’s certainly not ‘defamation of character’ let alone rising to ‘an act capable of instigating public disturbance.’ It is the essence of democracy and human rights.

“Declaring Afegbua wanted is unwarranted because there is no evidence of inciting violence against him”.

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SERAP insisted that “Afegbua’s statement doesn’t contain incitement to violence”.

It asked the police to immediately withdraw its unlawful declaration and end the harassment of Afegbua.

“President Muhammadu Buhari should publicly instruct the police authorities that it’s their duty to facilitate people’s enjoyment of their freedoms, not to hinder them,” it added.

The statement, which Afegbua issued on behalf of Babangida, detailed the alleged failings of Buhari and called for the emergence of a younger, vibrant leader that could tackle the country’s 21st-century challenges headlong.

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