Activist and social commentator, Boniface Okonkwo, has filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit against the police and at the Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State.
He has been in detention since January 3 when he was arrested following a complaint by businessman Sir Emeka Offor.
The respondents include Offor; Area Commander, Oraifite Police Command; Commissioner of Police in Anambra State; Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 13, Ukpo; Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in charge of Nigeria Cybercrime Bureau are the respondents.
Okonkwo’s lawyers also filed an ex-parte application for his release from detention as required by the law.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, however, said he would not grant the application until he heard from all the parties concerned.
He adjourned until January 16 so that all the parties would react to the application.
On that day, Offor filed his response but the police asked for time.
The matter was adjourned till Tuesday.
Offor and Okonkwo both hail from Oraifite in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The social commentaror reportrdi criticised a meter manufacturing company in Oraifite, said to be owned by Offor, on social media.
Rather than sue for defamation, Offer filed a complaint with the police.
A police spokesperson in Anambra, Tochukwu Ikenga, denied that Offor was instigating it to detain Okonkwo.
“In one breath, he (the lawyer) claimed his client merely criticised the complainant (offer), yet he admitted that his client published on a social media space that the meter manufacturing company commissioned by the Vice President at Oraifite, an event witnessed by many dignitaries from all walks of life, was an empty warehouse decorated to deceive the people! How more destructive can an activist be?” Ikenga stated.
Ikenga, however, did not explain how the purported claim in the post should be the basis for the long detention of a citizen.
There are fears that the cybercrime law, enacted in 2015 to protect the nation’s economy and prevent fraud and cyberattacks, is now being used by authorities and the powerful to prosecute journalists, citizens and commentators who often criticise the government, politicians or businessmen.
Meanwhile, thd alleged offence against Okonkwo is bailable, the police said he was still being detained for investigation and denied him an administrative bail.
Human rights lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome had stronly condemned the practice of security agencies detaining citizens beyond the constitutionally stipulated days.
He noted that Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides for only one day of incarceration when there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40 kilometres from the police station.
The section provides that where there is no court within a 40-kilometre radius of the station, the person cannot be detained beyond 48 hours; or any longer period which the court considers reasonable given the particular circumstances of the case.
Observers have faulted the claim that Okonkwo was being detained “for a thorough investigation”; they believe there is a bid to give the alleged defamation or civil case a criminal colouration.