The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday released prominent news blogger, Mr. Abubakar Sidiq Usman, after detaining him for more than 24 hours.
But this did not stop Nigerians from reacting angrily to his arrest for what the commission alleged were “offences bordering on cyber-stalking”.
The EFCC said Monday it had arrested and granted administrative bail to Usman for what it termed “cyber-stalking”.
Usman, who is the publisher of Abusidiqu.com, was picked up at his Kubwa, Abuja residence by EFCC officials and was quizzed over the alleged offence, which it said contravened the Cyber Crime Act.
Usman, it added, was offered administrative bail and was to be released to his elected sureties.
Usman was the third blogger to be arrested since the Cyber Crime Act came into force in 2015.
However, Nigerians reacted angrily to his arrest by the EFCC with the youth wing of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stating that the anti-graft agency had abused its powers with the arrest, reported the BBC yesterday. His followers launched a #FreeAbusidiq campaign on Twitter.
Last week, Usman published allegations that EFCC acting chairman Ibrahim Magu was bullying his staff.
Usman is an extremely popular blogger and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also said it was deeply concerned about his arrest, reported the BBC.
He is a strong backer of President Muhammadu Buhari, and a founding member of the youth wing of the APC.
In a statement posted on its Facebook account, the APC youth wing said he was being held on “spurious charges”.
The EFCC was formed to investigate financial crimes and had overstepped its jurisdiction by detaining him, it said.
Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil society organisation, and the Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria (GPBN), the umbrella group of bloggers in Nigeria, condemned the arrest of the Abuja based blogger.
The two groups demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the blogger, stating that Usman was arrested for exercising his constitutional and internationally-recognised right to freedom of expression.
SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said: “This action by the EFCC is unequivocally contrary to both Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party. The EFCC must now immediately and unconditionally release Usman and drop all charges against him.”
The statement read in part: “Nigeria’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Under international law, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
“SERAP believes that no one should be arrested simply for criticising public institution or public figures.
“The EFCC and indeed all public institutions should proactively encourage freedom of expression to enhance their ability to fight corruption and maintain the sanctity of the constitution and Nigeria’s international obligations and commitments.
“There are many whistle-blowers out there that can be of immense support to anti-corruption agencies and contribute to the effective discharge of their statutory mandates to prevent and combat corruption.”
On its part, GPBN in a statement signed by its acting President, Chris Kehinde Nwandu, queried the action of the anti-graft agency which it said had usurped the functions of the police.
According to the body, the appropriate action to be taken by the agency, if aggrieved, was to report the matter to the police which will then carry out an investigation.
It stated that while it won’t condone the excesses of any member, the manner in which the agency arrested Usman was condemnable and did not follow global practice.
It asked EFCC to focus its attention on its core mandate, which is financial and other economic-related offences.