SWITZERLAND, MAY 26 – Many Nigerians have taken to the social media to express outrage over the detention of a journalist, Rotimi Jolayemi and his wife, Dorcas, reportedly for ‘insulting’ the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
The victim’s offence, according to his charge sheet is that he posted a poem on a Whatsapp group for the purpose of insulting the personality of the Minister. He is said to have called the Kwara-born Minister ‘a thief’in the poem.
According to Dorcas Jolayemi, wife of the Kwara-based journalist, she spent eight days in the custody of the Kwara State Police Command after she was accused of obstructing the arrest of her husband, Rotimi, who had ‘insulted’ the minister through a poem.
“On April 29, 2020 policemen came to my house in Ilorin, Kwara State, but I was not at home. I had gone to visit my brother-in-law. I was told that when they realised I was not at home, they came to my brother-in-law’s house in a Hilux van. They were about four policemen altogether. They said they had come to arrest me and I stood up. They kept asking me where my phone was and I told them it was with my son.
“They said I must follow them to their station with my phone. Eventually, I got the phone and we left. On getting to the State Criminal Investigation Department, they began to interrogate me. They asked why I obstructed the arrest of my husband. I asked them what they meant by that,” Dorcas said in a recent interview
According to the woman, the policemen said they wanted to arrest her husband but he had fled to Maro in Kwara State. They therefore, had to arrest her in his place because they had evidence that she had tipped her husband off.
“Apparently, they had bugged my phone and that of my husband. I admitted that, indeed, I told my husband to run away, but it wasn’t a crime because I didn’t harbour him. I only asked him not to come home, which is what a typical wife would do. I heard the police wanted to arrest him and I didn’t know the reason why they wanted to arrest him. I told him to run away because I wanted him to be safe. They said for that, I would pay for it. I was brought before their boss and the man insulted me, calling me a stupid woman. He said I shouldn’t have advised my husband to run away. The man said I would pay for it and they took my statement. I was there from April 29 to May 6,” Dorcas continued.
Confirming that her husband was indeed, arrested for insulting lai Mohammed, the woman said, “While I was in detention, they played a recording of the poem that was recited by my husband. They asked if I could confirm if the voice belonged to my husband and I said it was his voice. They said how could my husband be insulting Lai Mohammed, a minister. They said it was Lai Mohammed that ordered them to arrest him.”
She also said that the police arrested his two brother-in-laws; Joseph and John Jolayemi before they found her husband.
Dorcas’s husband, Rotimi Jolayemi has reportedly been taken to Abuja and remains in the custody of the police.
“The last time I saw or spoke to my husband was on May 5, 2020, the day he turned himself in at the SCID. On Thursday, which was May 7, he was taken to Abuja and since then, he has remained there.”
The incident has sparked off a number of reactions on Twitter with many people expressing dismay over the fragrant abuse of power displayed if indeed, the minister had ordered for the journalist’s arrest.
Renowned human rights activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore has led credence to the story by posting the court charge against Jolayemi on Twitter.
Sowore, who has also been recently been a victim of human rights abuse, wrote:
“This is what repression of independent voices has become in Nigeria, every minister of the @MBuhari are taking tyranny to a whole new level by abusing their offices. Lai Mohammed has detained Jolayemi since May 6 2020 for sharing a poem about him WhatsApp!”
The incident has also been condemned by other journalists including award-winning Fisayo Soyombo who exclaimed:
“And we say we’re a democracy? No, no. We’re a ‘milito-cracy’. Milito-crazy!
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned the incident. The group also called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to take immediate action to stem the rising tide of horrendous violations of the freedoms of expression and information and to stop the rapidly shrinking democratic spaces for the media to practice their profession in line with section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution which mandates the media to monitor the operations of all governmental and non-governmental systems in the country and to serve as the national vanguard and conscience.
The Rights group said this brutal and atrocious act can only happen where there is widespread official impunity and anarchy.