Once again, our democracy has come under serious threat with the arrest and detention of Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times by men of the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad. It need be stated without fear of being contradicted that the arrest of the journalist for reporting the tentative report of investigation and findings by the Inspector General of Police on the siege that was laid on the National Assembly by the DSS and submitted to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is a gross violation of the rule of law.
It need be stated that Ogundipe has not violated any known law in the country and the failure of the Police authority to charge him to a law court while subjecting him to torture is a gross violation of Sections 34(1a), 35(1), 36(1), (4) and (5) and 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). It is so unfortunate and embarassing that the Police Force has failed to discharge its constitutional duty as stated in Section 4 of the Police Act.
There is no gainsaying in the fact that the recent action of the Police is against the rule of law which should not be condone in any sane society where there is the rule of law. No doubt, the action of the Police to force Ogundipe to disclose his source contravene Section 16(c) of the Freedom of Information Act which confers on journalists “journalism confidentiality privileges” and Article 4 of the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists which is made in pursuant to Section 9 of the Nigerian Press Council Act which stipulates that “a journalist should observe the universally accepted principle of confidentiality and should not disclose the source of information obtained in confidence”.
It need be remembered that we are in an unusual time in the history of our democracy which cannot be disconnected from the refusal of our government and its apparatus to abide strictly by the rule of law. However, it must be noted that we are setting a wrong template for those coming behind us.
Today, our country is under a siege by the ruling elites who have sworn to protect and uphold democratic norms, but, unfortunately, are engrossed in acts that is vertically against the tenets of democracy. The Constitution in Section 39 has granted an unqualified freedom of expression to every citizen. Rather than continually acting against the rule of law which the Police is known for as a result of the crass ignorance of their rank and file, the Police should do well to charge Ogundipe to a competent court of law and stop violating his fundamental rights by illegally keeping him in their custody.
In all, the present leadership of the Nigerian Police Force need to come in terms with the non-partisan nature of the Police as created by the Constitution and they must also come in contact with the fact that the Police Force is a creation of the Constitution and must always act in accordance with the Constitution without turning itself to a political tool; an instrument of oppression while undermining and subverting the law. The right against the disclosure of source of information is a universally guaranteed right and both local and international courts have upheld the right against disclosure of source of information in avalanche of cases.
It is however my prayer that the Nigerian Police Force would wake up to the reality of the law and release the detained journalist without delay.
Kazeem Olalekan Israel (GANI) is a 300Level Political Science Student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)