A human rights group known as the Centre for the vulnerable & the underprivileged, CENTREP, says it has taken over the case of the five journalists who were detained on Tuesday by the IGP Squad at the Police Area Command Office in Warri.
The group in a statement of Thursday, said it has taken over the case by filing separate fundamental rights suits on their behalf against the Police at the High Court, Warri in a bid to defending and enforcing their fundamental rights.
The statement signed by the Executive Director of CENTREP, Oghenejabor Ikimi, a lawyer, said: “Gentlemen of the Press, the attention of members of the Centre for the vulnerable and the underprivileged, (Centrep) have been drawn to the recent arrest and detention of five journalists from the Warri Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) by Men of the SARS, IGP Squad at the Area Command Office, Warri for several hours in lieu of their colleague, Mr. Cletus Opukeme and without any formal charge and we condemn same as unlawful, unconstitutional and a violation of their fundamental rights. Thus in line with Centrep’s objectives of deepening our democracy and human rights culture in our polity, we have decided to take over the case of the above five journalists pro-bono by filing separate fundamental rights suits on their behalf against the Police at the High Court, Warri in a bid to defending and/or enforcing their fundamental rights.
“We are reliably informed by the journalists concerned that this Tuesday evening, a team of Men of the SARS, IGP Squad stormed the Press Centre of the Warri Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and arrested the Correspondent of Daily Post Online, Mr. Matthew Omonigho in lieu of Mr. Cletus Opukeme, a journalist and a colleague of the former. Mr. Matthew Omonigho was in the process assaulted by his abductors who tore his jeans trouser and cut his belt before taking him to the Area Command Office, Warri where he was detained.
“It is in the light of the foregoing that we call on the Police High Command to offer a public apology in all the national dallies to the said journalists forthwith in line with Section 35 Sub Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) or else we shall not hesitate to file separate fundamental rights suit in the High Court, Warri on behalf of all the said journalists against the police and claim damages at large cum an order to render public apology in all the national dailies, to the said journalist.”
CENTREP expressed optimism that such a suit would teach the Police on how to be more professional and to respect human rights of the citizenry while discharging their statutory duties.