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Journalist allegedly detained for criticizing Information Minister, Lai Mohammed in a viral Whatsapp audio

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has allegedly ordered the arrest of a freelance broadcaster who has been detained for 12days.

The broadcaster identified as Rotimi Jolayemi also known as Oba Akewi is the vice-chairman Freelance and Independent Radio Broadcasters Association of Nigeria (FIBAN), Osun state chapter.

This development was confirmed by the FIBAN chairman, Olu Olugbade.

The FIBAN chairman said Jolayemi had recorded an eight-minute audio criticising the minister and released via WhatsApp.

“The audio started going viral, and days after, his wife and brothers were traced in Kwara where they lived and were detained by the police,” Olugbade said.

“We were then told the minister had listened to the audio and tagged it hate speech.

Comrade Jolayemi later showed up at the police headquarters in Ilorin and submitted himself for investigation. He was then moved to Abuja and since we’ve not been allowed access to him.

Every time we went there with our lawyers, they would turn us back. We asked that he be charged but the police say they don’t have anything to use against him yet.” he said

Olugbade said his organization has made an effort in appealing to the minister but its appeal fell on deaf ears. He said Jolayemi is a law-abiding citizen and would not set out to hurt the minister.

He also raised concerns over the health condition of the detained broadcaster.

“Jolayemi’s health can’t cope with this kind of detention and I’m afraid if he’s not freed on time, things might get worse,” he said.

Reacting to the development, the president of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Osagie Obayuwana in a statement, condemned the detention of Jolayemi’s family members.

He said, it is a violation of section 7 of the administration of criminal justice act, which forbids hostage-taking and the arrest of any person in place of another.

“It is worrisome that Alhaji Lai Mohammed would have a hand in the arrest of the wife of Mr Jolayemi, Mrs Dorcas Jolayemi, and two of his brothers who were kept in detention for eight days, nine days and two days respectively as hostages, while the journalist, Mr Rotimi Jolayemi, was being sought,” the statement read.

“Furthermore, that even since Mr Jolayemi surrendered himself to the police headquarters at Ilorin, Kwara state on May 6, 2020, he is still being held till date, 12 days later, without being charged to court or granted bail.

“The continued detention of Mr. Jolayemi by the police and at the instance of Alhaji Lai Mohammed is tantamount to punishing a citizen for the expression of his opinion; this is not justifiable in our Nigeria of today.

As the mouthpiece of the Buhari Govemment and Minister of Information and Culture, one would have thought that Alhaji Mohammed would subscribe to the democratic tenet of letting different ideas contend; furthermore, that the culture of free expression of all shades of opinion is one that the Hon. Minister would hold dear. Being a man of letters himself, one would have also expected that the Hon. Minister would react in writing to the content of Mr. Jolayemi’s poem.” the statement read

CDHR said it is surprising that the minister would want to be remembered for being associated with a culture of repression. Demanding the immediate release of Jolayemi, CDHR also said a public apology must be made to him, his wife and his brothers, and payment of compensation to all four of them.

The minister did not return calls placed to his phone line and was yet to respond to a message seeking his reaction.

Frank Mba, police spokesperson, did not also respond to message seeking reaction on the matter.



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