8th January, 2018
President Muhammadu Buhari
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock, Asokoro
A PETITION BY THE ONLINE PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (OPAN) TO HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI OVER THE ARBITRARY ARREST OF TIM ELOMBAH AND DANIEL ELOMBAH ON THE EXPRESS ORDERS OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE.
We are the solicitors to the registered trustees of Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN and so this petition issues on their behalf and instructions.
The Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, OPAN, is Nigeria’s premier association of digital/new media publishers.
Daniel Elombah and Tim Elombah, are the Publisher and Editor respectively, of the United Kingdom based online news website, Elombah.com.
On the 1st day of January 2018, men of the Federal Special Anti-Armed Robbery Squad, SARS, numbering about fifteen and armed to the teeth stormed the family compound of the Elombah’s in Edoji, Uruagu Nnewi, Anambra State.
The men who struck around 5.00am on the new year day climbed over the gate with a ladder and ransacked the entire house. At the end of the operation, six (6) adult male members of the family including Daniel and Tim Elombah were handcuffed, herded into a rickety bus and driven to the SARS Nnewi office where they were briefly detained. Mobile phones and laptops belonging to the members of the family were seized by the team.
No one explained the reason for their arrest thereby throwing the entire family, including their aged mother, their wives and little children into great distress. Repeated requests for the reason for their arrest was met with a terse, “you’ll be told at the station”.
Their lawyer who attempted to find out the reason for the arrest was told in express terms that they were “acting on orders from above” and was not even allowed to talk to them.
From Nnewi they were driven to the SARS headquarters in Awkuzu, near Awka, again without being told the reason for their arrest.
At the SARS state headquarters, they were handed over to a different set of four armed men who were later identified as officers from the Special Tactical Squad, STS, a crack team of operatives directly in the office of Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police.
The team leader of the STS explained to them that the Inspector General of Police, IGP, personally ordered the arrest because Tim Elombah, allegedly published an article on the online media, Elombah.com, which article was allegedly aimed at blackmailing the IGP. Repeated requests for details of the offending article were not met but they were told that they will be given the details in Abuja. The STS team leader thereafter released the eldest of the Elombah brothers while three Elombah’s namely: Daniel, Tim and Izuchukwu Elombah were herded in handcuffs into another bus after they were briefly interrogated.
At this point, the brothers repeatedly requested to be told the offence for which they were arrested but were ignored. The allegation against Izuchukwu, a trader in Niger State was also not provided.
They left Anambra state and arrived at the STS Abuja office around 5:00pm. Tim who is also the editor-in-chief of the online news medium, Elombah.com was grilled for nearly three hours while Daniel and Izuchukwu were detained behind the Counter. All three were eventually interrogated separately for several hours. It thereafter emerged that Tim was accused of publishing a defamatory article on a website.
The article titled “IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies” was published as an opinion piece on Opinionnigeria.com, an online medium that was hitherto unknown to them. Moreover, the author of the said article was one Ebiowei Dickson, again a very strange name to the three brothers.
Tim repeatedly denied writing the article which in any case was NOT published on Elombah.com. Tim also denied knowing the identity of Ebiowei Dickson.
Daniel and Izuchukwu Elombah was eventually released after much pressure from friends, but Tim Elombah remains in detention.
The police filed a motion ex parte and got a remand order from an area court of the FCT for a further seven days detention for Tim Elombah.
Up till now, the Police have not revealed to Daniel, Tim and Izuchukwu Elombah their alleged offences. No one has informed them why they were abducted from their country home, handcuffed like criminals and transported in a bus over a very bad road for 700 miles to Abuja. Izuchukwu was assaulted, slapped, punched and beaten. They were physically and psychologically tortured and traumatized! Their mother’s blood pressure shot through the roof and she is presently undergoing medical treatment. Their children were traumatized at the sight of gun totting hefty men that were initially mistaken for armed robbers or kidnappers banging at doors and waking up the entire household in the wee hours of the morning of the new year day. Daniel’s movement is restricted and he is not allowed to leave the country. That means that his family could not travel back to London as scheduled to enable their two children resume schooling. The schools resumed on Wednesday 3rdJanuary in London.
Though the police has declined to publicly state why the journalists were brutalized and arrested in the wee hours of New Year’s Day in their family home in Nnewi, Anambra State, independent finding shows that the arrest was premised on an opinion article titled “LGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies” written by Eboiwei Dickson, that was published on another website – Opinion Nigeria – which the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris found offensive. If so, at best what Tim Elombah is accused of doing was libel, and therefore, absolutely a civil matter. This squarely means that the IGP inputted criminality into an otherwise civil matter and unleashed the full might of the Nigerian Police Force on the defenseless Elombah’s.
We also note that no formal invitation was ever given to the Elombah’s.
OPAN views the assault on Elombah.com, Daniel, Tim and Izuchukwu Elombah as a gross violation of their persons and fundamental right as enshrined in the constitution.
OPAN therefore prays the President:
1. To condemn the arrest and call the IGP to order
2. To set up a panel of inquiry to look into the circumstances surrounding the arrest and the detention of the Elombah’s, and the continued detention of Tim Elombah.
3. To set up a panel of inquiry to look into the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, unit of the Nigerian Police Force.
For: Imperial Legal
MALIZU IWUDOH Esq