Al-jazeera journalists sue Nigerian Army, army chief over illegal detention

Two journalists, Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustapha, working for foreign news channel, Al-Jazeera, have sued the Nigerian army and its chief, Kenneth Minimah, for trampling on their fundamental rights.

Messrs. Idris and Mustapha – reporter and cameraman respectively of the news television – were arrested on March 24 in their hotel room in Maiduguri, Borno State for “loitering” in areas were combat operations were still on-going.

A statement by the Defence Headquarters said the journalists were moving around “restricted areas” in Yobe and Borno States without protection, accreditation or clearance.

The journalists, represented by lawyer and human rights activists, Femi Falana, sought a declaration that the arrest and their continued detention by the military were illegal and unconstitutional, thereby violating their right to personal liberty guaranteed by Section 34, 35 and 41 of the constitution and Article 5, 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Right Act.

They also sought an order directing the Nigerian military and Mr. Minimah to release the journalists from illegal military custody immediately.

The reliefs were sought on the ground that the applicants were not soldiers and that the military had no right to arrest them.
The reliefs also argued that “loitering or wandering” were not offences known to law; and the applicants were entitled to their liberty, freedom of movement and integrity to human person as guaranteed by Section 34, 35 and 41 of the constitution.

Peter Nkanga of the Committee to Protect Journalists told PREMIUM TIMES the journalists went incommunicado since 10:10 p.m. on Wednesday. He said their phones were seized from them by the military.

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When contacted, the spokesperson for the Army, Sani Usman, directed all enquiries on the matter to the Director of Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, a Major General.

Mr. Olukolade could not be reached for comments.

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