Deji Adeyanju, a Nigerian political activist who was arrested during a protest on Wednesday, will spend the third night in custody, his close associate has told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Adeyanju was arrested while leading a protest against police bias in Abuja on Wednesday morning. He was subsequently arraigned before a Chief Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday afternoon.
The presiding magistrate, Aliyu Kagargo, admitted Mr Adeyanju, Daniel Abobama and Boma Williams, the two other activists arrested with him, to bail.
They were to each provide sureties that included a level-14 civil servant, a businessman with N20 million bond.
But failure to immediately meet the bail terms allowed correctional officers to keep the three at the Keffi Prisons, about 40 minutes drive from Abuja.
Ariyo-Dare Atoye, a long-time associate of Mr Adeyanju, told PREMIUM TIMES the leader of Concerned Nigerians and his comrades met their bail conditions as of Thursday afternoon, but the magistrate was unavailable to sign the papers for their release from jail.
Mr Atoye said since the bail conditions had been perfected as of Thursday afternoon, he was upbeat Mr Adeyanju and two others would be released by midday Friday.
“We are shocked to learn today that there was an attempt to coerce the judge not to sign the papers for their release,” Mr Atoye said. “We have made it clear to them that this would not be tolerated in a democracy and the court is already working on ensuring that the right thing is done.”
Police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood said in a statement that the activists’ actions ”were criminally defamatory, and also capable of incitement and breach of public peace.”
He strongly denied all allegations of bias raised by Mr Adeyanju and others, saying the police remain a professional institution before which the interest of Nigerians takes priority of political officeholders, including the president.
Screenshots of Mr Adeyanju’s social media posts were attached to the statement, and Mr Moshood indicated they would form a key part of police evidence during the activist’s trial.
While expressing concerns that Mr Adeyanju might be kept in jail through the weekend, Mr Atoye accused the police of being behind the delay. He accused the police of a fresh plot to arrest Mr Adeyanju on separate false charges.
“We are now aware that the police wanted to secure a fresh warrant to arrest Deji Adeyanju when he is released from prison, but the judges are blocking such moves because he has already been charged and now in custody of the court,” Mr Atoye said. “This was one of the major reasons for the delay.”
Mr Adeyanju has been a major torn on the side of the police, and many of his critics and admirers had long predicted his incarceration.
The political activist was once a formidable operative of the Peoples Democratic Party on social media. But he abandoned the main opposition party shortly after his controversial removal as its social media director in early 2017, becoming a full-time activist in the Nigerian capital.
He soon formed Concerned Nigerians, a political action think-tank which he has used to demand equity and social justice.
His activism, often characterised by potentially defamatory allegations against public officials and regular picketing of public institutions, has led to his arrest several times, including at least three times this year alone.
Mr Adeyanju’s latest arrest comes as he intensified agitations for the international community to prevail on security agencies not to give preferential treatment to President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of 2019 elections.
He accused the Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris of being biased and said the police chief appeared desperate to compromise election security operations in favour of the president.
Calls for Mr Adeyanju’s release have inundated the police since his arrest, with many seeing it as an attempt by Mr Buhari to shut down critical voices ahead of the 2019 elections.
Giving the length Mr Adeyanju had gone to irritate top Buhari administration officials, Mr Atoye said the police are determined to inflict maximum damage possible on his friend before they release him.
“We would like to let them know that Deji Adeyanju is not someone who could be manipulated,” Mr Atoye said. “He has been fearless before he was unjustly arrested and will remain fearless when he eventually regains his freedom.”
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