The National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, who has been in detention since January 5th, was brought to the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday morning, in cuffs. He came for hearing on his bail application, escorted by the Nigerian Prison Service officials in the midst of an impenetrable security. This highly unacceptable action has sparked a strong expression of public disapproval especially from the family of the main opposition party, PDP, as they described the act of tyranny as a “brazen display of authoritarianism” by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the PDP, this recent occurrence unmasks “an extra-judicial, top political witch-hunt policy of the APC, carefully designed to humiliate, embarrass and portray PDP leaders as common criminals and set the stage to cow and decimate opposition and perceived foes of the government.”
The People’s Democratic Party, in a statement endorsed by Prof. Adewale Oladipo, the party’s National Secretary, made it clear that,
“This development which expectedly elicited widespread public outcry clearly betrays an extra-judicial, top political witch-hunt policy of the APC, carefully designed to humiliate, embarrass and portray PDP leaders as common criminals and set the stage to cow and decimate opposition and perceived foes of the government,”
“The question remains, if not to mortify, dehumanize and break our National Publicity Secretary, who has been very vocal against the APC administration, and of course to send a signal to others critical of the government, what else would have informed the decision to produce him in court in handcuffs, even when his case does not border on security threat?”
“Is this an attempt to sway the court and ambush the judicial process against our National Publicity Secretary, all because of his stance against observed ineptitude and dictatorial tendencies of this administration?
“The PDP invites all Nigerians and the international community to note the emerging barefaced abuse of state power and violation of constitutional provisions regarding the arrest, detention and eventual arraignment of our spokesperson.
“Nigerians by now, should be extremely scared that our country is fast drifting into a police state where being in opposition or holding views divergent to that of the government makes one a criminal and an enemy of the state.
“For now, the target of the on-going lopsided war against corruption is the PDP and its leaders. All APC members, including those with known corruption issues are immune from investigation, arrest and prosecution.
“However, more worrisome is the fact that institutions of government, especially security and corrective agencies have now fallen victims of dictatorial abuses. Our fear now is that in no time, ordinary citizens of Nigerians, who in the last 16 years have lived under the rule of law and constitutionally guaranteed personal liberty, would begin to suffer brutality and oppression.
Talking more about the humiliation, he went on to say that members of the APC party were never so humiliated during the PDP regime.
“Under PDP administration, some Nigerians, including APC leader and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu were tried but never humiliated; now we see security operatives under this regime being used to crush and humiliate the opposition.
“Finally, while we study the bail conditions, we urge all PDP members to remain calm, united, focused and continue to pray for the nation and her people. We also urge the media to remain on the side of justice, fairness and rule of law and resist the pressure of being used as a tool to promote arbitrariness and abuse of process in the so-called fight against corruption.”
The defense of the Nigerian Prison Service was that the decision to handcuff Metuh was made by the prison officer who oversaw his appearance in court for the fact that it was within his jurisdiction to decide whether or not to do so depending on the security and environmental situation as well as the intelligence report at his disposal, said the NPS spokesperson, Francis Enobore, in a telephone conversation with a Punch correspondence.
He went further to clarify that although Metuh was handcuffed, he was in no way treated badly. He also stated that using a handcuff on an inmate was a foundational procedure that could be adopted by the prison warden considering the circumstances at hand.
According to him,
“Handcuffing an inmate is at the discretion of the officer in-charge, depending on the security situation, the environment and intelligence report available to the officer. Sometimes they look at the atmosphere and take the necessary decision.
“If you suspect that the atmosphere, security-wise, may not be conducive to the inmates in your custody, you can use handcuffs; to avoid a situation where you have to start telling stories, you use your discretion to study the environment and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the inmates in your custody.
“Remember that we not only try to secure the inmate from escaping, we equally provide protection for the inmate. The officer in-charge must ensure that the life of the inmate is not jeopardised. It is the officer in-charge of the escort that studies the security environment and takes the decision to use handcuffs.”
Mr Francis vehemently refuted the idea that there was a political undertone to the use of handcuff on Chief Metuh.