A High Court in Abuja on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of Tim Elombah, the Editor of Elombah.com, who was arrested alongside his brothers.
Justice Ajoke Adepoju in her ruling directed the Nigeria Police to release Elombah within 24 hours with a condition of one reasonable surety with N500,000 in like sum.
The court took the decision following a suit on a fundamental right application and N1 billion damages against the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and the Police.
A statement by Elombah’s lawyer on Tuesday said: “It will be recalled that on January 1, 2018, Idris caused the men and officers of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad to invade the family compound of our clients in Edoji, Uruagu Nnewi, Anambra State.
“Six persons (including our clients) were arrested, handcuffed like common criminals and driven to the SARS office in Nnewi. They were subsequently taken to the SARS headquarters in Awkuzu, near Awka. Up till this point, our clients were not informed of the reason(s) for their arrests.
“It was at SARS headquarters in Awkuzu, Anambra state that our clients were handed over to other armed officers who identified themselves as being from Special Tactical Squad, a team that works directly in the office of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris. Our clients and one Izuchukwu Elombah were then taken all the way by road (and in handcuffs) to Abuja.
“It was in Abuja that the officers then subjected our clients to hours of grueling interrogation regarding an article published in another blog called opinionnigeria.com, titled ‘IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies’. The article in question was not published by our clients’ blog, Elombah.com, and our clients denied any link to the author, one Ebiowei Dickson. Daniel and Izuchukwu Elombah were eventually released on bail, but have been made to report constantly since then.
“However, the Police got a Remand Order to detain Tim for seven days which expired more than a week ago and the Police are still holding Tim illegally. We now understand that the Police have prepared a Charge against our clients and they would soon be arraigned.
“Your Excellency, it is shocking and alarming, to say the least, that the Inspector-General of Police deployed the officers and men of special police squads like SARS and STS, which are established to fight serious and violent crimes, to settle a purely private grievance with on-line journalists. If at all an offence was committed by the said published article (which is not conceded) a simple civil invitation to our clients would have sufficed. But to use such strong-arm tactics to reign in our clients was a gross abuse of his office and an employment of stone-age tactics in pursuing his personal grievance.”
Meanwhile the House of Representatives on Tuesday began the investigation of Idris over the unlawful detention and arrest of Tim Elombah and Daniel Elombah, the Publisher of Elombah.com, over issues bothering on fundamental human rights abuse.
The decision to investigate the matter was sequel to the petition written by the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria of Nigeria, which was presented on the floor of the Green Chamber by Hon. Chris Azubogu (Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekwusigo Constituency).
Azubogu said for the past 23 days, Idris had detained the Elombahs unlawfully despite the expiration of the detention order.
He recalled how Special Anti-robbery Squad stormed the family compound and arrested six males found in the house and handcuffed.
He added that they were driven to the state SARS headquarters Awkuzu, near Awka.
He said: “It is very instructive that the Police took Tim to Mpape Area Court requesting to be granted 14 days to conclude their investigations. On looking at the facts, the court rejected the 14 days but graciously granted Police seven days.
“Unfortunately, after 22 days, Tim Elombah is still in detention and his elder brother, who is the publisher of Elombah.com, is on police administrative bail but cannot travel back to London where he resides with his family as the police insisted that he should not travel out of Abuja.”