SPECIAL EDITORIAL: Are we seriously going to sit by and watch Audu Maikori be harassed?

About three weeks ago, entertainment mogul Audu Maikori was arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) in Lagos and taken to Abuja, where he was detained for a day before being released. Although no official explanation was given for his arrest, it is assumed it is not unconnected with his using misleading pictures on social media regarding the killings in Southern Kaduna and for tweeting a fabricated story of five students who were killed.

On Friday, he was arrested again by the DSS and taken this time to Kaduna. Just like the previous incident, there is yet to be any official statement as to why he has been arrested and as at the time of publishing this, he is yet to be released.

It does not take much to decipher the tactics of the DSS in the timing of these arrests – being picked on Friday afternoons when it will be too late to charge him to court, thus making it inevitable that he will spend the weekend in their custody.

It is also public knowledge that the Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai has promised to make an example out of Audu Maikori for what he terms “irresponsible use of social media”, especially in relation to the recurring killings in Southern Kaduna. Governor el-Rufai at the Social Media Week in Lagos had said that they were looking for a way to link killings in Southern Kaduna to Maikori’s tweets.

It remains worrying that individuals will be arrested and held by security agencies without any explanations, or even allowing access to them by their family and lawyers as has been happening with Maikori.

It is not in doubt that Maikori did these things he is being accused of – he has admitted to them publicly. But if the government or security agencies believe that his actions constitute a crime, why are they hesitating to have him openly tried in a court of law?

It is not just enough to arrive at the verdict that Maikori has acted wrongly. While his actions are immoral, it takes a court of competent jurisdiction to prove that those actions are also illegal.

It will be very wrong to have this particular episode play out in exactly the same way as the previous one, where he is arrested and released after some time without any explanation as to why. Since the security agencies have arrested him, they should go the whole way and charge him to court so that the court can decide what his fate will be.

Without that happening, it will mean that the intent of the security agencies is not to enforce law and order, but rather to be used as willing tools in intimidating persons whose voices make some people in high places uncomfortable.

They should also afford him full access to his legal counsel and his family which are not privileges but rights.

If the DSS is unable to charge Audu Maikori to court, then it should free him and let him be rather than continue this blatant act of harassment that belongs more to an era of dictatorship than to a country that is a democracy.

They should either charge him or let him be.

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