President Muhammadu Buhari saw the arrest and prosecution Joachim Iroko, a 41 year old trader arrested by the police in Ogun State for naming his dog ‘Buhari,’ as “a ‘laughable incident”, his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said late Thursday.
In a short reaction posted on his Twitter handle, Mr. Shehu said those criticising Mr. Buhari for failing to act on the matter were in “ignorance of the type of person he is.”
“He enjoys cartoons and likes sharing them. The ones he enjoys the most are those that caricature him,” Mr. Shehu said. “People should listen to the real story behind this dog incident and to not waste precious time seeking the hand of the President in a laughable incident!”
Mr. Shehu’s comment was the first time the Buhari administration would comment on the development, which has grabbed the headlines for nearly two weeks and sparked debates about free speech.
It also came a few hours after Mr. Iroko was released from jail, after spending three days behind bars while his family sought funds for his bail bond.
The three days were in addition to the eight days Mr. Iroko spent in a police cell in Sango Otta, Ogun State.
Mr. Iroko was first arrested on August 14 by officers attached to the Sango Otta Division after receiving complaints from a neighbour who said the name he gave his dog was offensive.
Salihu Umar filed complaints against Mr. Iroko with the police, alleging that the ‘Buhari’ name Mr. Iroko gave his dog was the same as his father’s name.
Mr. Iroko was arrested by the police and detained before he was finally charged with a one-count of attempted breach of public peace on August 22.
Bolaji Ojikutu, the Chief Magistrate in charge of the case, granted Mr. Iroko a N50,000 bail after he pleaded not guilty. He was transferred to prisons after failing to immediately raise the funds.
Mr. Iroko met his bail conditions on Wednesday after receiving about N90,000 through fundraising appeal coordinated by a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong.
He was released around noon on Thursday and he went straight to his residence in Sango-Otta.
Mr. Iroko’s case had continued to generate debates about free speech under the current administration, with many Nigerians saying it was an embarrassment of international magnitude.
The incident also received widespread coverage from the international media.
Eleanor Whitehead, Nigeria correspondent for the Economist, said the development showed that Nigeria had become a “police state.”
Shortly after his release, Mr. Iroko said his arrest and confinement brought untold trauma on his family.
“The President must be having a good laugh over this whole thing,” Mr. Shehu said.