Release Opeyemi Owatimeyin now, says Yoruba World Congress
“The Yoruba World Congress condemns the arrest of Opeyemi Owatimeyin by security agents and keeping him in unlawful detention against the extant laws of the land.
“According to information at our disposal, which we have confirmed from many sources, which included Owatimeyin’s lawyers, the said Owatimeyin was seized by security agents at Iyara in Kogi State on 26th August, 2020 and has been in detention ever since.
“Efforts by his lawyers to secure his release according to law have been rebuffed.
“This violates section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, which guarantees the right to personal liberty. A detaining or arresting authority is granted 24 hours of custody of Nigerians if courts are available within a radius of 40 kilometres or maximum of 48 hours in other situations. Under the law, only a court of competent jurisdiction, upon due process, can authorize a longer period of detention of persons.
“To the best of our knowledge, this provision of the law has not been adhered to in the case of Owatimeyin.
“Therefore, the continued detention of Owatimeyin violates the laws of the land and Nigeria, being a country under law, this flagrant breach of the law ought not be so.
“This is not a banana republic and neither is it a dictatorship. We portend to the world at large that we operate a democracy in which the fundamental human rights of every citizen must not only be recognized but also are respected and protected.
“The ‘sin’ of Owatimeyin, according to the reports at our disposal, is that he was allegedly distributing pamphlets extolling the virtues and necessity for a Yoruba nation or Oodua Republic.
“Again, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees the right to freedom of speech and of association to every citizen.
“The Charter of the United Nations which Nigeria ratified grants the right to self-determination. Even President Muhammadu Buhari recognized this at the UN General Assembly of 2016. President Buhari was asked about the agitations of many Igbo Nigerians for a separate Biafra country. He answered that if the agitators wanted to be taken seriously, they should establish a law-abiding organization to promote their demands peacefully, and that if they did that, the Nigerian state would have to listen to them and talk with them.
“A peaceful exercise of such rights as Owatimeyin allegedly was reported to have done does not constitute an offence known to law.
“For the records, prominent Nigerians in the chequered history of this country have been known to have advocated and continue to advocate for a course of action not different from what Owatimeyin was alleged to have done.
“Should anyone have a contrary opinion to Owatimeyin’s, they, too, should be free to express it.
“And should anyone feel that Owatimeyin has breached any known law of the land, he should be charged to court where he will be able to exercise his inalienable right to self-defence.
“We, therefore, demand Owatimeyin’s immediate and unconditional release from illegal and unlawful detention.
“Owatimeyin must immediately be given the right of access to his lawyers and family and must have his day in court if the authorities are minded to charge him. His case is not a question for bail extortion either.
“It bears repeating, however, that jackboot responses or intimidation tactics to strident calls for the restructuring of this country by its ethnic nationalities will yield no positive dividend but can only drive the country further to the edge of the precipice.
“Patriots like Owatimeyin who are lending their voices to the patriotic call that we make hay while it shines should be treated as patriots and not hounded and villified as common criminals.
“The Yoruba World Congress calls on all well-meaning Nigerians and especially the Nigerian Bar Association to rise up to the occasion and ensure that Owatimeyin is urgently granted his freedom and, if charged, to take up his case pro bono in the interest of the protection of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
“Finally, the earlier the authorities listen to the voice of reason and take heed on the vexed issue of restructuring this country, the better for us all.
“A stitch in time saves nine”
Prof. Banji Akintoye
Yoruba World Congress.