Dr. Monday Ubani, Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law, NBA-SPIDEL, has condemned the recent decision by the Nigerian Military to punish two of its officers Private Hannah Sofiah and popular skit maker Abdulgafar Ahmed also known as Cute Abiola.
Private Hannah was detained for publicly accepting a marriage proposal by a National Youth Corp member, while Cute Abiola was detained and punished for almost three weeks for allegedly contravening Navy social media rules.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ubani noted that while the Army and Navy reserve the right to maintain discipline amongst its officers, such actions must however be guided by the 1999 constitution which guarantees the rights of all citizens including military officers.
He particularly condemned the illegal detention of Private Hannah, Cute Abiola and some other military officers who have suffered such fate adding the constitution guarantees military officers right to marriage.
On Cute Abiola detention and punishment, Ubani said: ” This young officer was detained by the Nigerian Navy for days without the knowledge of his family for allegedly contravening the military laws. The military must be mindful that Nigeria is not a ‘Banana Republic’, where anything goes.
“What irked many is the silence of his employers for two solid days after he was detained with no member of his family being aware of his detention or what has happened to him.
“The secrecy surrounding his detention by his employers and the reasons advanced for his ordeal smacks of an era of military regime where basic rights of the citizens are violated with impunity.
Also demanding the release of Private Hannah, Ubani said: “The human rights community finds it difficult to accept the fact that a citizen can be taken hostage in an opaque manner and it has to take some days before the authority can confirm that they are the one holding the citizen hostage in their facility.
“So also is the idea of throwing a young military officer into detention simply because she accepted marriage proposal which is approved by God and laws of the land.
“Assuming but not conceding that she breached any of their regulations, can she not be punished without throwing her into detention for an indefinite period? What makes her marriage acceptance too offensive that warrants these draconian measures being meted out to her?
“Can’t our leaders and institutions sometimes play the role of “God” just as we see in other countries in forgiving people when their error is not too grave to affect national interest?
“Have the country descended into fascism and dictatorship where leaders are banishing joy, happiness and smiles as if we are in North Korea? Is Nigeria now the Banana Republic?
“We hereby demand that the young military officer be released forthwith from her illegal detention with an apology for the undue embarrassment caused her and her prospective suitor. Peoples’ lives should not be destroyed under the guise of enforcing discipline. For the umpteenth time, may we remind ourselves that we are in a civilian democracy?”
Pointing out the constitutional rights of military officers, Ubani further noted: Whilst one cannot interrogate the rights of these agencies to maintain discipline in their organisations, one is astonished at the alacrity with which these citizens are thrown into illegal detention for an indiscriminate number of days with scant or no regard to the provisions of the constitution that guarantees several basic rights to the citizens including those who serve these Security institutions.
‘In case those who are in the leadership of these institutions have forgotten or are not in the know, may we remind them that (1) We are not under any military dictatorship but under civilian democracy since 1999.
“The provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, particularly Chapter 4, guarantees right to personal liberty, right to a fair hearing, right to dignity, right to movement etc. These rights are in existence and have not been abrogated.
(3) No one today can be punished of any crime in Nigeria that is not properly defined by our Criminal or Penal Code.
“If these citizens who are employees of these institutions have committed any crime or breached any of their administrative rules or regulations, we demand fair, transparent and open trial process in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is the ground norm of our jurisprudence. Anything short of that is unacceptable, illegal and remains questionable.”