by Cletus Ukpong
The police have arrested a Nigerian lawyer, Joseph Odok, over allegation of ‘terrorism’.
He has been in police detention in Calabar, Cross River State, South-South Nigeria, for four days now.
Mr Odok, a native of the state, is an avowed critic of Governor Ben Ayade.
He was arrested by two police officers on Thursday in Abuja and taken to Calabar by road, his wife, Cecelia, told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday evening.
“The police said they have been trailing him for about two weeks; they have been tracking his phone line,” she said.
She said Mr Ayade was behind her husband’s arrest and detention. “Somebody warned my husband on Facebook that they will soon give him the same treatment they are giving to Agba Jalingo,” she said.
Mr Jalingo, a journalist and publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper with focus on Cross River State, is in prison in Calabar, charged with treason, over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor.
“They (Cross River government) have a hand in my husband’s arrest,” Mrs Odok insisted.
Mr Odok’s counsel, Oliver Osang, corroborated the claim made by the wife to the detained lawyer.
“From the way the police put it, it is coming from the government of Cross River State,” Mr Osang said of his client’s arrest.
“As at yesterday (Saturday) when I was at the police station, they said it is terrorism. It’s frivolous. You know, they want to look for anything possible to charge him,” he told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday evening.
“They are yet to provide any evidence. He was still writing his statement at the police station.”
Mr Odok fled Cross River State two years ago after an attempt was made on his life, and has been in Abuja.
His lawyer said the police were yet to state whether the ‘terrorism’ he is accused of took place in Calabar or Abuja.
Dennis Ibe, an inspector of police who is investigating Mr Odok’s case, declined to comment on the case when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him.
Mr Odok’s Facebook page is contains critical remarks on Mr Ayade.
In one of his posts on the social media site in September, the lawyer described the governor as a “joker”.
“Ayade keep getting it wrong with lofty projects. Why talk of Spaghetti flyover when you have not maintained or completed a single road project from your first administration.
“A man that can’t complete a single road keeps talking Super High Way, Deep Sea Port and now Spaghetti flyover. This joke is getting out of hands,” he wrote on Facebook.
Mr Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, denied the governor’s involvement in the arrest and detention of Mr Odok.
“It’s wrong for people to describe as the governor’s critic, anyone arrested by the police. The governor does not know anything about his arrest, the police are in a better position to tell you why they have arrested him,” Mr Ita told PREMIUM TIMES.
Paul Ifere, another critic of Mr Ayade’s administration who was similarly arrested and detained last year by the police for criticising Mr Ayade, condemned the incarceration of Mr Odok.
Mr Ifere said the governor was clamping down on his critics because of his intolerance to criticisms and opposing views.
“If you criticise Ayade, he will come after you, that’s what he has been doing,” Mr Ifere said.