Some human rights groups have described the government of Bayelsa State as the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria, accusing Governor Seriake Dickson of illegally detaining a social media activist, Tonye Okio.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, and the Journalists for Democratic Rights; said during a press conference that while millions of Nigerians were marking the Yuletide with fun and grace, many innocent people were in detention on the orders of the state government, a statement said.
The statement read in part, “We are obliged to raise the alarm on the human rights condition in Nigeria. It is currently facing severe challenges. As the country marks towards its 100 years anniversary, it is regrettable that basic human rights, especially freedom of speech, continue to come under atrocious attacks.
The groups alleged that on October 26, 2013, armed men, on the instruction of the state government, invaded the Abuja home of Okio and whisked him away.
They claimed that “he was tortured, humiliated and suffered depression. The abductors wanted to bundle him to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, by air through Port Harcourt, but the air trip was aborted. He was subsequently taken by road, chained like an animal and brought to the Government House in Yenagoa.”
The groups further alleged that after the operatives had received their briefing from the governor, Okio was subsequently remanded in police custody.
“At the police station, for several days, he was not allowed access to his family and friends. He was subjected to all sorts of indignities. As we speak, a fellow Nigerian is suffering unimaginable political persecution.
“He is in prison where he is being subjected to deliberately harsh and dehumanising conditions. Currently, due to the kind of food that Okio has been fed with, he is weak, malnourished and may die unless urgent action is taken to save this Nigerian citizen. The action is for him to regain freedom now. Tomorrow may be too late.”
The statement added that in a bid to draw global attention to the plight of the detained, the right groups launched the “Free Tonye Okio Global Campaign” noting that it had informed advocacy groups across Africa, in Asia and in Europe and North America, that Okio must be free.
The groups noted that for several weeks, a businessman, Fakuma Ilagha, was held as an accomplice to Okio because his number was found on Okio’s phone.
The groups cited another case involving one Mr. Melford Esinte, another social media critic of Dickson.
According to the group, Esinte has been arrested on two previous occasions for his Facebook postings.
“A few days to Christmas, he was again arrested.”
The groups said as soon as he was granted bail by the court and conditions were met, he was rearrested by his “persecutors who were not satisfied with the ease with which his bail came about. He was again charged and granted bail over the same offense he is being accused of.”
The group called on the National Human Rights Commission to immediately intervene in the matter.
When contacted on the telephone, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said he could not speak much on the issue since the matter was already in court.
He however denied allegations that the government was witch-hunting critics in the state.
He said, “It is subjudice of court process to speak on the issue since the matter is already in court. He (Okio) is still in detention because he has not been able to perfect his bail condition. Others people that were arrested with him have perfected bail and have been left off the hook. The government should not be dragged into this please.”