SSS Chases Mother, Sister Of Journalist Detained In Akwa Ibom State, Prevents Them From Seeing Him-Kufre’s Counsel
At about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, 7th May, 2020, the aged mother, sister and another relative of our client, Kufre Carter, went to the Akwa Ibom State Command of the State Security Service (SSS) situated at Nsikak Eduok Avenue in Uyo with the sole aim of visiting our client but were rudely chased away and prevented from gaining access into the facility by operatives of the SSS.
Carter, a prolific sport’s presenter with XL 106.9 FM in Uyo, was arrested and detained since Monday, 27th April, 2020 over a purported private phone conversation on the response of the state government to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the SSS and the Akwa Ibom State Government alleged to be defamatory of the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong.
When our client was summoned through phone call by the Director of Operations of the SSS, Mr Uchechukwu Nnatube, we advised our client as law abiding citizens to honour their invitation. Immediately our client arrived at the SSS Command with one of our colleagues, Augustine Asuquo Esq., the officers became belligerent and insisted that the lawyer should leave their facility because they did not ask our client to come with a lawyer.
On Wednesday, 29th May, 2020, our client was surreptitiously taken to a Chief Magistrates’ Court without notice to us (his lawyers), with the intention of arraigning him without him having legal representation. We however got wing of the plot and our colleague, Augustine, had to rush to the court.
Chief Magistrate Winifred M. Umohandy granted our client bail in the sum of Three Million Naira (N3, 000, 000.00) with one surety in like some. The court specified that the surety must be either a Permanent Secretary with the Akwa Ibom State Government or a Civil Servant of Grade Level 17. Our client was also asked to produce a letter from the Village Head attesting to his identity.
Unable to fulfil these conditions, we filed an application the following day being Thursday, 30th April, 2020 at the State High Court praying for the variation of the bail conditions. The said application has been fixed for Monday, 11th May, 2020 for hearing.
While we continue to rest our hope on the judiciary as an independent arm of government, we are troubled by the continuous refusal of the SSS to allow Carter to have access to his lawyers and family. Our client’s mother did nothing wrong by making efforts to see her only son and also give him food.
We will like to place on record that this is not the first time that our client’s mother has tried to see her son in custody and was chased away.
On 27th April, 2020, Carter’s mother went to the same facility where her son is being detained to see her son and to also give him food but was equally chased away. Since the arrest of our client, neither his family nor we, his lawyers, have been granted access to him. We are seriously worried over the safety, wellbeing, physical and mental health of our client.
While we continue to wait for the day that the SSS will explain to the world when or how a purported case of “defamation” became part of its statutory mandate, we call on the President of Nigeria, the Director General of the SSS, the National Human Rights Commission, the international community, the civil society, the media and the general public to prevail on the SSS and the Akwa Ibom State Government to respect the fundamental rights of our client.
Section 36 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every person who is charged with a criminal offence the right to presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty. We are not worried by the charge of “defamation” initiated against our client. We are ready to face the government in court.
All that we ask for is adherence to the rule of law, respect for the fundamental rights of our client and a fair trial as guaranteed by Section 36 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Inibehe Effiong Esq.
(Lead counsel to Kufre Carter).