The Al-Mizan journalists have now spent about one week in detention.
The Chairman of the Board of the National Human Right Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, has called on the State Security service, SSS, to comply with the Nigerian constitution and either arraign the two Al-Mizan journalists currently in custody or release them immediately.
Mr. Odinkalu, who made the charge in a public statement on Saturday, also said the SSS should allow the detained journalists access to their families, medical attention or other legal representatives.
The human rights chief also requested the SSS to allow “the National Human Rights Commission access to the detained journalists to independently verify their state of health and conditions of detention.”
On Friday, December 21, Al-Mizan, a Hausa language newspaper published in Kaduna, Nigeria, ran a story alleging that operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) had rounded up 86 youth in Potiskum, Yobe State.
Two Al-Mizan journalists, Musa Mohamed Awwal and Aliyu Saleh, were arrested on Monday morning by heavily armed security operatives from their residences in Kaduna to undisclosed destinations. During the operation to take them away, both men were allegedly assaulted by the security operatives.
At the residence of Mr. Awwal, his wife was also allegedly assaulted as she sought to find out the identities and authority of those who came to take away her husband. An adult son, who suffers from sickle cell, and was also in the house at the time, was allegedly also assaulted before Mr. Awwal was taken away.
The security operatives allegedly took with them a laptop computer and eight mobile telephone handsets belonging to different members of Mr. Awwal’s family in his residence. They also allegedly took away cellular handsets at the residence of Mr. Saleh.
The security operatives reportedly did not identify themselves and did not directly accuse the two journalists of any crimes during the course of this operation to take them away.
On the same day, also in Kaduna, another set of security operatives visited the residence of the Editor of Al-Mizan, Ibrahim Musa, which was subsequently ransacked. Following the visit by the security operatives, a laptop computer and modem were allegedly found missing, presumed to have been taken away by the security operatives.
No search warrant was shown to anyone on the premises before or during this visit while Mr. Musa remains in hiding.
Following these security operations, the workers at Al-Mizan went around the various police stations in Kaduna to look for their colleagues. The police denied holding them and sent around signals seeking confirmation on their whereabouts.
The SSS in Kaduna State subsequently confirmed that the operation had been undertaken by the SSS and that the two reporters had been transferred to the SSS headquarters in Abuja. They have, however, not been granted access to anyone – family or other representatives.
Mr. Odinkalu quoted sections 35(4)-(5) of the 1999 Constitution which requires all persons arrested by the security agencies to be arraigned not later than 48 hours or within “such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable.”
“Under the Constitution, any detention beyond 48 hours must be authorized by a court. The constitution also requires humane treatment of detainees and suspects,” he said.
He added that “the continued detention of these two journalists without information as to their whereabouts, crimes for which they are suspected (if any), or conditions of their detention, does not pass constitutional muster”.
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