#FreeAbusidiq: Lawyer Slams Buhari Govt ‘Draconian’ Bail Conditions For Arrested Journalist

Abu Sidiqu

by Samuel Ogundipe,

Abubakar Usman, a Nigerian blogger detained since Monday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is having difficulties meeting the stringent bail conditions demanded by the agency, his lawyer said.

The lawyer, Michael Bello, told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday that he and other legal representatives of Mr. Usman may be left with no other choice than to pursue a fundamental rights enforcement in the court of law.

Mr. Usman, a blogger known for his strong pro-APC views, was whisked away from his Abuja home early Monday by anti-graft operatives. He has remained in custody since.

Family sources said Mr. Usman was arrested for a report he published on his blog on August 2, which accused the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, of going after some EFCC staff.

The EFCC claimed Mr. Usman was apprehended because he allegedly contravened the Cyber Crime Act, 2015.

The agency was, however, silent on the specific sections of the law that Mr. Usman contradicted.

“The suspect has already been offered administrative bail and would be released to his elected sureties,” a statement by the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said.

But Mr. Bello said his client was not a criminal and, as such, did not deserve to be subjected to “draconian bail conditions”.

“They said we should provide two directors in the federal civil service who have landed properties in Abuja municipal area,” Mr. Bello said. “We have no means of meeting this conditions right now and we would continue to plead with them to soften them.”

Mr. Bello said Mr. Usman was unwell at the time of his arrest, as he was battling typhoid.

As a result, Mr. Bello said he may not be able to tolerate EFCC’s foot-dragging for too long because of the trauma his family had been subjected to and the need to save his client’s health from deteriorating.

“We would approach the court for enforcement of his fundamental rights if they don’t soften their strict requirement for his bail,” Mr. Bello said. “He needs to attend to his health and his nursing wife should be considered.”

Mr. Bello said he was allowed access to his client around 6:00 p.m. Monday and on Tuesday at noon.

Mr. Usman’s arrest has earned the Nigerian government widespread condemnation, and some of his acquaintances said they were making efforts to secure his release.

Chidi Odinkalu, president of Unity Schools Old Students Association, decried the development and said members of the organisation had launched an appeal for Mr. Usman’s release.

“He expressed his free speech on his blog and we don’t think he should be punished for that,” Mr. Odinkalu told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday. “In any case, he graduated from Federal Government College, Ugbolawo, and, therefore, a member of the Unity Schools Old Students Association.”

“We’re making serious efforts towards his release.”

Mr. Uwujaren did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ calls and text messages trying to confirm if his agency had received formal appeal for leniency from Mr. Usman’s lawyers.