The police in Katsina State on Thursday said they arrested a 70-year-old man seen in viral video ‘insulting’ President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governor, Aminu Masari.
The police spokesperson in Katsina, Gambo Isa, in a statement, identified the suspect as Lawan Izala.
He said he was arrested with two others “who conspired and insulted President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Aminu Masari.”
The police said Mr Izala, in “confessional statement” explained that he insulted the duo after he found that their cows were rustled and the shepherd killed by suspected armed bandits.
“I’m tormented with what happened in the village. While on my way back I met Bahajaje Abu (man who filmed the incident) asking me about the government, I told him that I withdrew my support because of what happened with my cows, I am now left with nothing, that is how I became emotional and started the insult,” Mr Izala said in the confessional statement released by the police.
Mr Izala also said the video was shot three months ago but recently released on social media.
The other suspect, Bahajaje Abu, also reportedly confessed that he filmed the video while Mr Izala was insulting Messrs Buhari and Masari. He, however, said he did not post the video on Facebook.
“I don’t have the intention to disrespect the president and the governor. I filmed the video but I didn’t post it on Facebook, maybe someone whom I shared the footage did that.”
In the said video, Mr Izala in frustrated manner was heard insulting the two officials, while a voice in the background was encouraging him.
After the incident, Mr Izala was heard identifying himself by name. He dared the authorities to arrest him.
The police said a shop owner, located at Gafai quarters, Katsina metropolis, Hamza Abubakar, was also arrested by the police. He said the video was filmed at the front of his shop.
Why we arrested suspects
Insulting a political leader, including the president or a governor, is not a crime in Nigeria. However, authorities at state and federal levels have increasingly clamped down on perceived critics, and usually apply diverse laws to charge them with disrespecting the leaders.
Last year, Nigerians expressed shock after it became clear charges filed by the federal government against the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, for planning a protest contained an allegation he insulted Mr Buhari. Mr Sowore was later released on bail.
The police said the trio were arrested for conspiracy and “intentional insult against the president and governor of Katsina State on social media”.
The spokesperson, Mr Isa, said the police “were jolted into action after seeing the viral video on social media showing one Lawal Izala, 70, of Gafai Quarters, Katsina town.”
The policeman said, “the suspect was contemptuously insulting President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Governor of Katsina, Aminu Masari.”
“The Commissioner of Police in Katsina, Sanusi Buba, ordered for investigation, which led to the arrest of the trio of Lawal Izala, 70, Bahajaje Abu, 30, and Hamza Abubakar, 27, all of Gafai Quarters, Katsina state,” Mr Isah said.
The police added that the suspects confessed to the commission of the offences.
“To this end, the command wishes to warn members of the general public that the police will not fold its arms and watch while disgruntled elements violate the sacred laws of the land.
“Any person found taking undue advantage of the social media to insult others, contrary to the provisions of Cyber Crime Act, will face the wrath of the law,” Mr Isah said.