Nigeria: Free Seun Kuti now!

We publish below the statement of Workers and Youth Solidarity Network in Nigeria

FREE SEUN KUTI NOW

The detention and assault on Seun Kuti are unjust, unnecessary, and illegal. We demand an end to his victimization and his immediate release!

The Workers and Youth Solidarity Network strongly condemns the continuous detention, assault, and abuse of the legal process against Mr. Seun Kuti by the Nigerian Police Force. The alleged case of physical assault on a police officer on the Third Mainland Bridge does not warrant the public parade, home searches, and prolonged detention of Mr. Seun Kuti.

The refusal of the police to comply with the court ruling on Tuesday, May 17, appears to be a deliberate attempt to seek revenge against Mr. Seun Kuti for his past involvement in struggles against police brutality. We denounce the Nigerian Police’s ploy to deny Kuti’s release on bail.

We strongly oppose the prolonged nature of Kuti’s detention, despite him voluntarily cooperating with the police for the investigation. His alleged offense does not justify these excessive measures.

The incident on the Third Mainland Bridge, captured in a short video clip of less than 2 minutes, shows a disagreement between Mr. Seun Kuti and a policeman on an unknown issue, leading to a physical altercation. However, the video clip does not provide context for what transpired before or after the incident. While we do not condone assault or violence towards any citizen, we believe that the mistreatment and abuse of power by the Nigerian Police in this case are unwarranted.

We assert that the resources and efforts of the Nigerian Police should be directed towards addressing the hundreds of terrorists, armed robbers, serial killers, bandits, and gunmen who continue to terrorize the general population on a daily basis.

The situation demands that people hold the Nigeria Police accountable. It is evident that the Nigeria Police are more interested in seeking revenge than addressing the real issues.

Mr. Seun Kuti willingly presented himself to the Commissioner of Police at the Police Command in Ikeja, Lagos on Monday, May 15, 2023. Surprisingly, no interrogation took place as agreed. Instead, Mr. Kuti was transferred to the Force Criminal Investigation Unit at Panti, Yaba. Prior to that, he was handcuffed and had his photograph taken by the Lagos PPRO, Mr. David Hundeyin, who orchestrated the media parade sharing his photograph. The Nigerian Police, through their statement on Twitter, justified the practice of taking pictures of suspects for record purposes. However, we question why these pictures were publicly shared and sent to various media outlets. Perhaps, this was done to create an atmosphere of fear among the youth who have been victims of police brutality and are tirelessly fighting against it. Furthermore, we strongly object to the release of a supposed “investigation report” by Mr. Hundeyin that convicts Mr. Seun Kuti, as only the court has the authority to convict a suspect.

Mr. Kuti should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The actions of the police in the past few days have been unlawful and raise concerns about the safety of Mr. Seun Kuti while in police custody.

Moreover, we vehemently oppose the police’s decision to subject Mr. Kuti to a media parade. This action directly violates Section 9 of the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, which explicitly prohibits any form of suspect parade in Lagos State, Nigeria. As if these transgressions were not enough, the police secretly obtained a four-day detention order from the court without informing Mr. Seun Kuti’s lawyer. Additionally, after conducting a search of Mr. Seun Kuti’s house, the police proceeded to the Yaba Magistrate Court to obtain an order for a blood test on Mr. Kuti! These actions are totally unacceptable!

It is clear that the police have more urgent matters that should be their top priority. On April 13, 2023, one Mr. Uloko Ojiji (28), a notorious ritualist and dealer in human parts, was arrested and paraded before the media. African Independence Television (AIT) captured the event and published an interview on their Facebook page. Despite being a public threat, the Nigerian Police, failed to charge him to court and instead released him and his associates. These individuals continue to operate freely, even going as far as erecting another signboard to advertise their nefarious activities.

Comrade Alex Ogbu, a journalist, trade unionist, and human rights activist, tragically lost his life on January 21, 2020, at Berger Roundabout, Wuse, Abuja, due to a trigger-happy police officer’s bullet. The incident occurred during a brutal police crackdown on protesters demanding the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. Ogbu was performing his duties as a journalist, covering the demonstration when he was fatally shot. Initially, the police claimed he died from a fall and head injury, but it was later revealed that he was actually shot in the head by a senior police officer.

Mrs. Omobolanle Raheem, a pregnant lawyer, had her promising life cut short on Christmas Day by another trigger-happy police officer. Just last month (April), Inspector Ubi Ebri killed Onyeka Ibeh because he refused to pay a N100 bribe.

Recently, members of the Nigerian Police were caught on camera physically assaulting and abusing a young man, forcibly taking his motorcycle from him, and leaving him bloodied at Jubilee Bridge, Oja Oba Area, Abule-egba, Lagos.

During the #EndSARS memorial protest at Lekki Toll-gate in October 2020, Nigerians who stood against police brutality were shot by the Nigerian military, and no officers have been held accountable for that tragic event to this day. These are just a few examples of the atrocities committed by the Nigerian Police, with little to no action taken to address them.

Therefore, we urgently demand an end to the mistreatment of Mr. Seun Kuti and his immediate release. We also demand a fair trial with a review of all the evidence presented regarding the incident on the Third Mainland Bridge. The Nigerian Police should focus on cases that are of genuine public interest and to stop targeting Mr. Seun Kuti for revenge. Seun’s case involves a physical altercation on a police officer and should be treated accordingly. 

If the police refuses to free Mr Seun we will have no option than to embark on protests actions, including occupying the Nigerian police force headquarters in Abuja. 

Dammy Owot 

Secretary 

WYSN

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