Falana, other activists slam Nigerian govt for prosecuting man who named dog Buhari

Photo Credit: olofofogist.com
Photo Credit: olofofogist.com

Human rights lawyers and activists have continued to express their concerns over the controversial arrest and prosecution of a man who named his dog “Buhari”.

Joachim Iroko, a 41-year-old trader, was charged in Ogun State on Monday for naming his pet dog “Buhari”. Mr. Iroko said he named the dog as a mark of respect for President Muhammadu Buhari.

Bolaji Ojikutu, a Chief Magistrate who heard the matter, granted him a 50,000 bail and adjourned the case till September 19.

But the case has left many apprehensive about free speech in Nigeria.

Lawyers and activists accusing the police and the government of acting swiftly on what seems less important, while far graver offenses receive no response.

“I am going to request the attorney-general of Ogun State to discontinue the frivolous charge,” said Femi Falana, a rights lawyer.

Mr. Falana said Mr. Iroko’s ordeal had no place in the Nigerian statute, adding that labelling his dog with his desired name was in exercise of his fundamental rights to free speech which should not be curtailed by the Nigerian state.

“It is against Section 36(9) of the Constitution to charge a man for a criminal offence that is unknown to law,” Mr. Falana said. “It is also illegal to use the machinery of government to harass any citizen.”

“If the president is aggrieved by the naming of dog after him, he is at liberty to sue for libel. But the police cannot invoke criminal proceeding to intimidate the fellow.”

Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer, said the “fixation” with Mr. Iroko despite sundry pressing issues, highlights the “reckless, arbitrary and intolerable abuse of law enforcement powers by the police”.

Mr. Effiong, who is the convener of Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, a public interest think-tank, said Mr. Iroko had only exercised his freedom of speech and expression which did not amount to a contradiction of the statute under which he’s being prosecuted.

“The fact that an individual or a section of the public considers a person’s conduct repulsive and reprehensible does not necessarily bring such conduct within the contemplation of Section 249 (1) (d) of the Criminal Code so as to occasion a likelihood of breach of the peace,” Mr. Effiong said.

Mr. Effiong, who coordinated the fundraiser for Mr. Iroko’s bail on social media, said the timing of the police action looked “highly suspicious”.

“Let’s ask the police one question: why are they just arresting him now?” Mr. Iroko said. “He got the dog as a gift in December 2015 and gave it the name. Nobody complained for more than eight months.”

Mr. Effiong said he was raising a legal team of about 100 lawyers to defend Mr. Iroko against “what everyone can now see clearly is an attack on his fundamental rights to free speech”.

Fola Olubanjo, a public affairs analyst, said Mr. Iroko’s arrest and prosecution should not be seen as a mere episode in the headlines.

“I’ve been watching the way the news media has been reporting this matter and I must be honest with you it’s not thorough enough,” Mr. Olubanjo said. “This should just not be so.”

Mr. Olubanjo said the recent violent attacks against people exercising their fundamental rights to speech and expression were enough to spur the government to adopt zero-tolerance towards any form of repression of free speech, if only to serve as a form of orientation.

“A woman was killed in Kano and another in Abuja. In both cases, they only exercised freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution,” Mr. Olubanjo said. “The government clearly doesn’t understand that if people are being arrested over a matter that is clearly in consonance with the principles of free speech, then no one should act surprised when a mob kills anyone for preaching the gospel on the streets.”

Mr. Olubanjo said the fact that the Buhari administration did not speak out against the injustice being meted to Mr. Iroko by elements of the state was equally condemnable, especially when he had a record of being allegedly intolerant of freedom of expression in the past.

“Look, this is a government led by someone with a terrible human rights record, specifically the repression of freedom of expression and freedom to say anything without fear,” Mr.Olubanjo said.

“Clearly, they’re not doing much to show that they’re willing to let democratic principles guide them in the way they conduct the affairs of the state.”

But Liborous Oshoma, a Lagos-based lawyer and public affairs analyst, however said the matter must be dissected beyond merely free speech.

Mr. Oshoma said Nigerians should not focus on criticising the government when the matter was clearly one of showing tolerance to engender peaceful coexistence.

“The man is an Igbo man and he named his dog Buhari. Not only that, he was also said to have written same on the dog in a neighbourhood of mostly Hausa people,” Mr. Oshoma said. “He definitely intended to provoke and incite violence in that neighbourhood.”

Mr. Oshoma said the neighbours were right to report the matter to the police, saying “it shows clearly that they have the peace of the environment at heart.”

“The matter is like having a white man walk his dog with ‘Nigger’ boldly written on it,” Mr. Oshoma said. “Ordinarily, you don’t want to do that unless you’re ready to get picked up by the police.”

Mr. Oshoma said citizens must be able to distinguish the focal point between free speech and hate speech or deliberate attempt to incite violence.

Laughable incident

Hours after Mr. Iroko was released, the presidency put out a statement illustrating saying the controversy was “laughable”.

It was the first public response on the matter.

Since coming to power in 2015, no fewer than five persons have been arrested on matters bordering on free speech.

Barely three months into the government, three bloggers, Demond Ike, Seun Oloketuyi and Chris Nwandu, were arrested and charged for offences that allegedly contravened Cybercrime Act in Lagos.

Mr. Ike spent six months in custody, parts of which were in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison.

A month later, Emmanuel Ojo, was arrested in Abeokuta allegedly on the orders of Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, after posting some “offensive” materials on Facebook. The charges preferred against him remained stalled in the Abeokuta Division of the Federal High Court.

Mr. Ojo said he had since fled Nigeria to another West African country after “threats from powerful people became unbearable”.

Three weeks ago, Abubakar Usman, a pro-government blogger, was also arrested and detained for nearly two days for apparently publishing a report critical of the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

Mr. Iroko said he had three dogs. He named one “Obama”, the second “Buhari”(later killed) and one after himself “Joachim”.

Mr. Effiong said it was unfortunate that Mr. Iroko would be arrested while those who killed his dog and threatened violence against him were allowed to walk free by the authorities.

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  • Tommy

    SHAME ON THIS ZOOOOO

  • E.u.d

    Don’t give that dog a bad name……..

    I am not aware of a criminal offence done just by giving a dog a good name. The best the court
    can do is to order a fresh dog-naming ceremony and quickly appoint the Registrar to go and give
    the dog a new name, if the Judge is not satisfied. The problem with that is who will now own the dog,
    if another person gives the dog a bad name? A right thing to do in my view is to maintain status quo.

    Any name given to that dog must fit the actual behavior of the dog. Can a court decide that issue?
    I don’t think so. Only the owner who lives with the dog knows the behavior of the dog. For instance,
    if the dog barks at corrupt people in the next building but does not bite the highly corrupt people
    living inside the compound of the owner, no other name can fit such a dog. The owner can’t give the
    dog any other fitting name in that kind of situation. Let’s be realistic and quietly respect his judgment.

    • No Bull …..

      Interesting BS.

    • erico banigo

      @disqus_bTU3PNSCLc:disqus

      THE DOG’S NAME SHOULD BE RETAINED AS ‘BUHARI’ IN THE LIGHT OF @e.u.d’s EXPLANATION.

  • Sylvester Daniel

    that is how ridiculuous this government could be. a man whose house is on fire is busy chasing rats. clueless government. i hate the nigerian police. most of them are illiterates only used to harass innocent Nigerians. mtcheeew

  • yahayaomaye

    We are talking about moral. These lawyers should go and sit-down . If the man has no respect for President elected by Nigerians, he should give the dog his father’s name. Or find his tribal name, like Okafor, for his dog. Nonsense.

    • Otiti

      Respect for who? An expired man without brains to pass WAEC? Be careful.

      • sunny

        you mean your corrupt father

        • Patrick

          Which one is ur own? Cant u see that Bokohari and the Dog in the picture above look so much alike. The only difference is the colour. Is he not the one that spoke of spilling the blood of Dogs and Baboons on the streets? Why are u now complaining…and truly, they have spilled the blood of Mr Iroko’s Dog(Buhari) by killing him.

      • yahayaomaye

        Respect for Nigerians who put (elected) Buhari. You have brain and you could not understand simple statement, Nonsense.

  • Victoria

    I do not even understand why people were troubling the life of the man who named his Dog Buhari. Don’t you people see what I see? When you take a forensic look at the face of the Dog, his oblong face, protruding miserable jaws, erectile ear etc, and compare them to that of Buhari then you can begin to see similarities.

  • Dy

    The man (Mr Iroko) should sue the FG and then sue Buhari in a personal capacity for not saying anything while the Nigerian police arrested and tortured him and then killed his Dog. He should seek compensation for the lost asset (Dog). Falana & Co should take up the case and be the legal team for this victim of state oppression and not just come to the media to issue statements and make noise.

    • Tunsj

      I’m waiting for your proof showing that President Buhari told the Nigerian police to arrest Mr. Iroko. I’m sure you got no proof. Just keep on running your mouth.

  • Omotolaaraujo

    It’s about time someone in the legal community said something. We are still waiting for anyone in Nigeria to inform us of the law about the Naming of Dogs. You know, THE DOG NAMING LAW! I’m sure there’s one on the books. Idiots.

  • AISHA HALLIBURTON

    NIGERIA IS A ZOO

    • Ba

      And people like you are there to be preyed on. Karuwa

  • OmoEfe

    I think that Animal (Dog)is too smart for the name it was given. Such a name would best fit a Goat because Goats are known to have poor memory, very low intelligence and inability to pass a basic WAEC exams for Goats.

    • Ubanku

      The goat has defeated your godfather. Agony of defeat from the gejites who are yet to come to terms with the fact that their jona has became the 1st Nigerian president to de defeated in an election.

      • DonChris

        So you are calling Buhari a Goat. Ok! Nigerian police over to you. His real name is Adebola Bankole Oluwole. He lives in Ajegunle extension.

    • Oj

      I am tempted to agree with you. Dogs have high intelligence. To detect hidden Igbo, Cannabis etc except to detect and arrest thieving Lawmakers who are seemingly Dog-arish! No be small thing o!

  • ‘Shola

    Shame on you people trivializing what this trader did – trying to incite violent reaction by wearing a “Buhari” tag on a dog & parading it through the hausa/fulani section of a local market. If things had turned chaotic & a couple of heads & limbs were chopped off, we’d then be singing “the president should put his tribesmen under check” …”hausa/fulani people are barbaric”. Yes, everyone’s entitled to fundamental human rights a la “freedom of express”, but when you hide under that to wreak havoc? …common!

    • Wako

      Chopping off of heads, and limbs and even dissecting a pregnant woman – removing the baby amd cutting off of the head of the Foetus have become the norm under Buhari’s Islamic Republic of Nigeria…and it is becos of cowards like you and slaves like who love their chains.

      Even in the land of the dead Buhari would not win any election. But out of cowardice, your people whose Generals cry like babies voted like cows led to the slaughter…and this is the result. SORROWS, TEARS & BLOOD…yet u still have the nerve to come here and defend the indefensible. Shame on u!

      • Otile

        Their slavish mentality is reprehensible.

    • thusspokez

      trying to incite violent reaction by wearing a “Buhari” tag on a dog

      In many Western countries, dogs must be microhipped and tagged. Do you now realise how backward you are?

    • eagle

      What do you known about violence ? Reasonable and leaned people are talking about freedom of speech as human right while a brute like you and your kind’s are talking violence

  • thusspokez

    When Mr Iroko’s ordeal is all over, I wish some of these lawyers would help him to sue the Ogun State AG and the Nigeria police for false imprisonment and abuse of his human rights.

    • Tunsj

      I’m glad you are not blaming President Buhari. Mr. Iroko should not have been arrested and locked up.

      • Bingo

        What is there to be glad about now? I really dont understand the kind of school you shuldren went to. So you would have been sorrowful if he had blamed Bingo?

        • Tunsj

          I do not have SHULDREN at all. But I have CHILDREN. You got what I’m saying?

        • thusspokez

          At times, one must ignore these irritants.

        • Otile

          The Tunsj fellow is a complete dunce. He is a disgrace to the yorubas.

  • Koko Bassey

    …and the Dog was brutally killed and Buhari did not even consider it fit to send a condolence message to a brethren. We knw he does not care about humans when the Hausas kill them, but at least he should care about ….. At least blood is thicker than water.

  • Commentsfile..!!!

    PT what has Mr Falana, Effiong . Olubanjo and others
    said that we did not say in this fora?? we discussed and
    condemned it entirely. we spend some time here daily
    cos we want our voices to be heard as concerned Nigerians
    by the FG. its time to attach our opinion(s) in some of your reports
    unless the management is of the thought that we, your followers
    belongs only in the archives!! You are the leading link in Nigeria
    when it comes to reliability and consistency, show your leading
    trend on this… thanks.
    like we agreed here, nobody should be dehumanized cos of
    their misinformed action of this type.

    • Frank

      I do not know you but from your comments I am convinced you are either completely blind or blind in one eye. Even if PT were to make reference to the comments on this forum, they would certainly use those posted by in-house staff and proxy agents of theirs like @Holy Wahala, @Julius, @Tunde & Co. Is it PT that refused to interview the parents of the Victim of rape and even the rape Victim but the relatives of the kinapper/rapist that you refer to as “leading link in Nigeria”? Like I said, e be like say eye dey pain you.

      • Tunsj

        Frank, do you have any proof that @Holly Wahala, @Julius, @Tunde & Co are in house staff and proxy agents of PT? Just asking.

      • Commentsfile..!!!

        we can disagree but at the end family!
        those who disagree with you still want
        the best for Nigeria but not happy with
        what they perceive at that moment of the
        disagreement but with this our loyalties
        are put to taste with an opposing facts.
        so brush urself up and contend with those you
        mentioned above if they are your nightmare!

  • AFRICANER

    Unless my comment on this piece is published within the hour, and uncensored, I hereby boycott this website.

  • eagle

    Dem cal am dog instead of him fans to be happy about dat they are busy arguing senselessly what if he was called malu which exactly what he is

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