By Ude Ogbonnaya Israel
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has demanded an immediate release of a Bauchi resident Rhoda Jatau in Police net since 20th of May 2022 over sharing of WhatsApp comment on the killing of Sokoto student for alleged blasphemy.
In a press conference in Bauchi held on Friday, the Executive Director of CITAD Yunusa Zacharia Ya’u, asserted that, “the action directly infringed on her rights to freedom of expression and speech as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Representated by its Senior programme officer in Bauchi Isah Garba, the CITAD Chief insists that her post perhaps strong in language did not incite violence but, simply an expression of her opinion, a right guaranteed to her by Nigeria’s constitution.
The Centre posit that, “her detention is an outright abuse of her digital right to freedom of expression online”, even as “her bail was consistently denied, and she has been held behind bars ever since”.
“This is not just an injustice to Rhoda; it is an attack on the digital rights of every citizen in this country,
“Denying someone bail based on a social media post sets a dangerous precedent for our collective freedom and democracy,
“It sends a bad signal that the government can silence any dissenting voice if they deem it contrary to their own opinion,
“And if this trend continues, it will make people to be afraid to speak their minds, express themselves and associate online for fear of being attacked, arrested or molested by the Nigerian government or its agencies as in the case of Rhoda’s and many others”, CITAD boss argues.
The Centre also contends that; “the Government of Nigeria is a signatory to various international human rights law instruments and treaties, including the African Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which all hold the fundamental human rights of the citizens in Nigeria”.
The CITAD Executive Director who considered the continued dentention of Rhoda as not only a gross violation of her digital rights, but also injustice to all, further maintained that;
“As an organization working on the protection of human and digital rights of Nigerians, we strongly condemn the unnecessary adjournments and postponements of Mrs. Rhoda’s case hearing, which has been delayed for five times since March 2023”.
The Centre which further challenged the rejection of her application for a “no-case submission” by her Lawyers despite having no criminal history wants her immediate release and all charges against her be dropped and further called that;
“The Federal government to immediately intervene and ensure the release of Mrs. Jatau without further delay;
“The Bauchi State Government to order the Attorney General in the state to facilitate the release of Mrs. Jatau unconditionally,
“The Nigeria Police Force to desist from arresting the citizens for exercising their constitutional rights online,
“The Nigerian National Assembly to speedup the passage of digital rights and freedom bill, which we believe will address most of this injustice perpetrated against the citizens under the guise of national security” among others.