A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has criticised the planned arrest and prosecution of Kassim Afegbua, the spokesperson of former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida.
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Falana said by declaring Mr. Afegbua wanted when he had not failed to honour the invitation of the police, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has overreached himself.
“It is undoubtedly that it is the Inspector General of police who has defamed Mr. Afegbua by portraying him as a fugitive from the law,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“Therefore, Mr. (Ibrahim) Idris is advised to withdraw the offensive declaration without any further delay.”
Controversy had trailed a statement Mr. Afegbua issued on behalf of the former head of state on Sunday, advising Nigerians to reject President Muhammadu Buhari after his first time ends in 2019.
Shortly after, a counter statement was released purportedly by Mr. Babangida distancing himself from Mr. Afegbua’s statement but the former president’s spokesperson insisted he had the mandate of his principal before issuing the statement.
On Monday, the police declared Mr. Afegbua wanted defamation of character.
“Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the issuance of the public statement by Mr. Afegbua and the denial by General Babangida it ought to be pointed out that no criminal offence known to law has been committed to warrant the action of the Inspector General of Police,” said Mr. Falana.
“More so, that both General Babangida and President Buhari have not complained that the controversial press statement has defamed them.
“In fact, if the statement is considered defamatory whoever is injured would have to institute a civil suit where he will be required to put his own reputation in issue.”
On Monday, Thisday newspaper quoted Mr. Babangida as saying that he, indeed, authorised Mr. Afegbua’s statement.
Mr. Falana said since the retired general had admitted his authorisation of Mr. Afegbua to issue the controversial statement, he would, hopefully, be prepared to say so in a criminal court.
“His testimony will go a long way to destroy the criminal case which the Inspector-General intends to institute against Mr. Afegbua.
“However, the Inspector-General of Police should be advised not to popularise the discredited views of both Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida who failed woefully to institutionalise democracy, rule of law, human rights, self reliance and probity during the 20 years that both of them had ruled the country.”