Civil Society Organizations on Tuesday warned the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello to refrain from the persecution of Usman Okai Austin, a political activist and spokesperson of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in Kogi State.
Usman was unlawfully arrested by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Friday February 22 2019, and whisked away to Lokoja, Kogi State where he is being detained without charge.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday, Ariyo-Dare Atoye of the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC), Raphael Adebayo of Free Nigeria Movement, Moses Paul of Mad Connect, Anthony Ehilebo, Political Advocate and Deji Adeyanju, Convener of the Concerned Nigerians Movement called on the DSS to immediately release Usman or charge him to court.
The CSOs berated Governor Bello for his high-handed approach and intolerance to criticisms.
“We want to state clearly that nothing must happen to our brother Comrade Usman. He has not committed any offence against Kogi State, against the Governor or against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also want to remind Governor Bello that criticising the government is not an offence against the law. He must equally remember that the actors of today can become the victims of tomorrow”, Atoye said.
“It is sad that it has become the trade mark of this government to clamp down on dissenting voices. I wonder how many times we will have to organise protests to free people who have been arrested for speaking against this government”, Adeyanju added.
Read their full statement below:
Free Austin Usman Okai Campaign
It is almost three weeks since our brother and friend, Comrade Austin Usman Okai was picked up by the Department of State Services in Kogi State on the order of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. Since then, he has been kept incommunicado without access to his lawyer, family and associates. All efforts to secure access to him have proved abortive.
However, our measured agitation to get him released has now been compounded by a latest social media post that he has been killed by his abductors and his body dumped along a major road leading to the FCT. This has sparked controversies and is generating serious tension within and outside Kogi and this is capable of unsettling the fragile peace in the state.
The Family and Associates of our fellow comrade fear that a plot may be in the offing to eliminate him as we have seen in recent times in Nigeria – of cases and instances where suspects died mysteriously in custody without any autopsy or forensic investigation carried out on their behalf.
Our concern is further complicated by the refusal of the DSS to make any public statement regarding his arrest and ordeal. We consider this an infringement of his fundamental human rights and a grave disservice to our constitution and the justice system. We make bold to say that no coercive agency of government has the powers to keep our brother or any Nigerian in perpetuity without the order of the court.
We are however not ignorant of the fact that the present ordeal of Austin Usman Okai as it was in the past, has been triggered by the tyrannical Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. And, we want Gov. Yahaya Bello to know that we and the people of this country will hold him responsible if anything untoward happens to Comrade Usman Austin Okai.
In conclusion, we wish to state categorically that Comrade Usman Austin Okai must immediately be released unconditionally without further delay. We also wish to emphasize that the government of Gov. Yahaya Bello must desist from needless persecutions as this and remember that power is transient, and we all shall reap whatever we sow on earth.
Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution
Convener, Concerned Nigerians
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