Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, has withdrawn her case against a final-year student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, Aminu Mohammed, following pressure and condemnation by activists, Amnesty International, the National Association of Nigerian Students, and other Nigerians.
The prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbobe, while withdrawing the case on behalf of Mrs Buhari, said the President’s wife, being the mother of the nation, decided to withdraw the case following the intervention of “well-meaning Nigerians”.
Moving a motion for the withdrawal of the case, Ogbobe cited Section 108 (2)(a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory commended Mrs Buhari for withdrawing the case.
Halilu, while issuing the release warrant, called on parents to always monitor their children to avoid recurrence
The 24-year-old student had alleged in Hausa that the wife of the President was “feeding fat on poor people’s money”. It was reported that he was moved from Bauchi to Abuja on Aisha’s command and locked up.
Muhammad’s uncle, Shebu Azare, had, in an interview published by BBC Hausa, on Monday, said the victim’s father, Mallam Adamu, was not aware of his son’s arrest until five days later when the matter had escalated.
The matter had also generated a lot of reactions, with prominent Nigerians, including the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, and other human rights activists calling for the student’s release.
According to a police report, Muhammed was arrested at Federal University Dutse on November 18, 2022, after the wife of the President instructed a team of police detectives to track him down.
The Presidency had also barred visitors from visiting inmates at the Suleja Correctional Centre, Niger State, following the arrest of Aminu.
One of our correspondents who visited the facility observed a heavy presence of security agents, with an inscription, “No Visitation,” at the entrance.
A security agent told Saturday PUNCH that there was an order from the Presidency barring all forms of visitation following Muhammed’s arrival at the facility.
“We can’t let you into the facility. No one is allowed to see Aminu. In fact, since he was brought in on Tuesday, no one has been allowed to visit inmates within the facility. You can read the note on the wall, no visitation is allowed, and I don’t want to lose my job,” he told one of our correspondents.
The officer, however, noted that the detained student lacked food since he arrived at the facility on Tuesday, adding that he only had N2,000 on him which spent, and could not afford to get food since no one was allowed to visit or call him.
The security agent added, “I feel for the boy; he arrived here with just N2,000, and it is finished. He complained of hunger today (Thursday), but there was nothing we could do since no one had been allowed to visit or call him. He only ate bread this morning.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the arrest and alleged torture of Muhammed and called for his immediate release.
Its Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said, “The Nigerian authorities must urgently release Aminu Muhammed and drop all charges against him. He is a student accused of defaming Aisha Buhari, the first lady of Nigeria, on Twitter.
“It is beyond disgraceful that the Nigerian authorities have arrested and allegedly tortured Aminu Muhammed after he merely tweeted about the first lady of Nigeria. This deeply repressive act brazenly violates his human rights.
“The bogus charges against Aminu must be urgently and unconditionally dropped. The authorities should instead order an investigation into his unlawful detention and abusive treatment. The fact that he was detained incommunicado highlights the rampant impunity enjoyed by the Nigerian authorities.
“Aminu’s final exams are scheduled for December 5, 2022, at the Federal University, Dutse. He must be urgently freed and be able to finish his degree.”
On November 29, 2022, Muhammed was charged with cybercrime, cybersquatting, computer-related forgery, conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.
But Amnesty International noted that though the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) ratified the Anti-Torture Act in 2017, torture and other ill-treatment remained pervasive in Nigeria, with police and state security agents continuing to subject detainees to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
Ojigho added, “The heavy-handed mistreatment of Aminu is a clear attempt to strike fear into the hearts of young Nigerians who use social media to hold the powerful to account. The Nigerian authorities must urgently respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
“Amnesty International is concerned by the growing number of attacks on freedom of expression in Nigeria. The authorities are increasingly using unlawful arrests and ill-treatment to stifle those who criticise the state. This must stop now.”
Over 2,000 Nigerians sign petition for critic’s release
However, over 2000 Nigerians have signed a petition seeking the release of the detained undergraduate who they said had been languishing in detention after some security officials, including the police and men of the Department of State Services, arrested him over a post he made on Twitter months ago.
A petition with the title “#FreeAminu” was started on the global change website, change.org, by one Ife David, demanding the student’s unconditional release. The petition had, as of the time of filing this report on Friday, garnered over 2,000 signatures from Nigerians, calling for the release of the student and a probe of the wife of the President, Aisha, for what they termed as an ‘abuse of power’.