CLO’S POSITION ON THE ARREST, REMAND AND PERSECUTION OF MS MARY EKERE
The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom State Branch received report of the unlawful arrest, remand and persecution of a female journalist, Ms. Mary Ekere, a reporter with The Post Newspaper, with sadness and worry.
According to the report, Mary Ekere was passing by Ibom Plaza axis of Uyo metropolis on Monday, 16th September, 2019 when she observed agents of the Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency harassing and assaulting traders, and throwing their wares into their vehicles. Ms.Ekere stopped by and recorded the scene with her mobile handset. From nowhere, the agents of the Waste Management Agency descended on the female journalist beating her up and stripping her naked.
She was bundled into the Waste Management Agency’s vehicle and driven to the Agency’s Office at Itam, Itu Local Government Area, from where she was later taken to the Sanitation Court in Uyo. Not finding the Magistrate on seat, an official of the Agency put a phone call through to the Magistrate who ordered that Mary Ekere be taken to prison and brought to Court the following day.
The following day, Tuesday, 17th September, 2019, Ms. Ekere was brought to the Sanitation Court from the prison in Uyo. She was arraigned and, upon a plea of “not guilty,” she was admitted to bail. Ms. Ekere’s father was in court to perfect the bail but the Chairman of the Waste Management Agency, Prince Ikim, reportedly instructed that Ms. Ekere be returned to prison. And she was indeed taken back to prison.
CLO acted swiftly on the report upon confirming the incident and condemned the high-handedness of the persons and authorities involved in the travails, and violations of the rights of Ms. Mary Ekere who was only carrying out her constitutionally guaranteed duties.
In the morning of Wednesday, 18th September, 2019, the Chairman and the Secretary of CLO, Akwa Ibom State Branch, Otuekong Franklyn Isong and Comrade (Barr.) Christopher Ekpo, respectively, took the advocacy for the release of the journalist to two separate private radio stations in the State, where they featured and brought the ugly incident to the front burner. Members of CLO were also mobilised across the State, and acted in concord in condemning the anomie.
Following the outcry and widespread condemnation that greeted the incident, the journalist regained her freedom just before noon of Wednesday, 18th September, 2019.
As a responsible civil society and pro-democracy organisation, CLO condemns the unlawful arrest, remand and persecution of Mary Ekere. CLO condemns the attitude of magistrates who are exploiting the haze surrounding the applicable law governing the administration of criminal justice in Akwa Ibom State to throw into prison persons accused of committing minor offences or even offences over which the magistrates do not have jurisdiction.
Accordingly, CLO renews its call on the Government of Akwa Ibom State to bring out the Administration of Criminal Justice Law which the Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, signed into law on the 27th day of March, 2017.
CLO further demands from the Government of Akwa Ibom State an immediate apology and the payment of reasonable compensation to Ms. Mary Ekere.
In addition, CLO calls on the Government of Akwa Ibom State to rein in its officials and agents to act within the confines of the Law.
Otuekong Franklyn Isong
Comrade (Barr.) Christopher Ekpo