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Political crisis looms over clampdown on Metuh, other PDP chieftains – Party warns

National Publicity Secretary PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh
National Publicity Secretary PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has posited that the continued detention of its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since Tuesday, without charging him to court, ‘clearly shows the dictatorial character of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government,’ it added ‘has not hidden its disdain for rule of law and an appetite to gag the opposition.’
The party further stated that the continued detention ‘is in clear breach of Chief Metuh’s constitutionally guaranteed liberty and fundamental rights.’
This is also Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose as well as the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, equally lent their voices to condemn the detention of Metuh by the EFCC.
The PDP in a statement signed by the National Legal Adviser, Barr. Victor Kwon, Saturday, stressed that relying on a purported ‘holding charge’ said to have been derived from a Magistrate to detain Chief Metuh beyond the statutory period allowed by the law is ‘in total violation of the constitution and extant corresponding rulings by several trial and appellate courts in the country.’
“We draw the attention of all Nigerians and the international community to this illegal clamp-down on the opposition spokesman by the EFCC, using a purported holding charge said to have been derived from a magistrate court.
“Holding Charge which implies ‘arrest before investigation’ instead of ‘investigation before arrest’ is clearly an aberration and abuse of judicial process which has since been declared by several courts as illegal, null and void, and of no effect as it is totally in contradiction with section 35 (1), (4), (5a) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Governor Ayo Fayose
Governor Ayo Fayose
“The PDP is particularly worried that Chief Metuh, since his arrest on Tuesday, is being inhumanly kept in an underground cell where he is daily threatened by officials, who we gathered, have been mounting pressure on him to accept guilt of fictitious figures and implicate PDP leaders.
“The public is very much aware that the EFCC Chairman has visited the Presidential villa at least twice since Chief Metuh was arrested and detained by the commission, ostensibly to get further directives on the case.
“We invite the world to note that President Buhari’s election promise of fighting corruption has now been turned into a man-hunt of PDP leaders, while known corrupt APC leaders are being shielded by the system and rewarded with ministerial positions and other government appointments.
“Our nation is now being turned into a police state with its inherent constitutional violations and infringement on rights of citizens, a scenario which poses grave danger to national stability and survival of our democracy.
“The PDP strongly cautions against the avoidable tension and looming political crisis over the continuous clamp-down on our leaders and particularly, the continued incarceration of our spokesperson, Chief Olisa Metuh, who was arrested a few days after he confronted the Federal Government and the APC over their dictatorial pronouncements and actions.
“Our teeming members across the country have so far exercised reasonable restrain, but we caution that there is a limit to what they can stomach in the face of this brazen persecution of our spokesman. The President Buhari-led APC government and the EFCC should therefore hold themselves responsible should there be any breakdown of law and order in the land over this matter.
“We therefore reinforce our demand on the EFCC to respect the course of law and release Chief Metuh immediately or charge him to court in line with the provisions of our laws if it strongly feels it has a case against him.
“Nigerians cannot afford to return to the era of dictatorship where constitutional provisions, respect for lawful processes and personal freedom of citizens under the law are trampled upon. Their response to this might come with very dire consequences,” said the PDP.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu
Senator Ike Ekweremadu
On his part, Governor Fayose of Ekiti State, Friday, challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the EFCC to charge Metuh to court if the commission was sure of evidences of fraud against him, saying “the EFCC appears to be operating a system in which an accused person is first arrested, detained endlessly while the anti-corruption agency goes about looking for evidence.”
Governor Fayose further challenged the EFCC to also act on petitions submitted to it against All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains and President Buhari’s election sponsors.
Speaking through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Governor Fayose cautioned that nothing untoward must happen to Metuh, adding that the APC’s desperation to decimate and silence the opposition has dragged the Buhari-led government in the mud of lawlessness.
Fayose said: “In saner climes, you don’t arrest people for alleged fraud and start to look for evidence to prosecute them. Rather, before you arrest anyone for fraud, anti-corruption agencies must have established a prima facie case and arresting the suspect will only be to enable for his or her arraignment in court.
“However, what we are witnessing in Nigeria today is a situation whereby the EFCC will arrest PDP leaders, humiliate them by subjecting them to media trial, detain them for weeks in the process of trying to force them to make statements during which the commission will be looking for evidence.
“For instance, in the case of Metuh, we are being told that the EFCC is insisting that he must write statements and one begins to wonder if it has now become mandatory for an accused to write statements in law enforcement agent’s custody. Shouldn’t the EFCC have simply charged Metuh to court based on its own evidence? Or is Metuh’s statement the evidence the EFCC requires to prosecute him?
“The international community, especially the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and others are put on notice on this condemnable act of arresting and detaining opposition leaders by agents of the Buhari-led government before fishing for evidence.”
While challenging President Buhari to extend his anti-corruption crusade to those who sponsored his election, Governor Fayose said any anti-corruption effort that targets only members of the opposition and those with axe to grind with the government of the day can never succeed.
“If President Buhari did not wait for any petition to move against PDP chieftains, asking people to come forward with allegations of corruption against APC chieftains, especially those who sponsored President Buhari’s election is clearly hypocritical.”
The governor added: “Most importantly, that the EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu even said the commission do not have any petition against APC chieftains when indeed there are loads of petitions against ministers serving in Buhari’s government and other notable APC chieftains goes to show the hypocrisy of the fight against corruption.
Also, Senator Ekweremadu warned that continued detention of Metuh was designed by the Federal Government to gag the mouthpiece of the opposition.
Ekweremadu who stressed the need for the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government to be cautious against the trampling of the opposition and total disregard for the rule of law in the guise of anti-corruption war, said that with this development, the country was fast descending into authoritarianism, adding that it spells doom on the nation’s democracy.
In a statement signed Friday, by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, Senator Ekweremadu who reaffirmed the PDP’s support for a genuine anti-graft crusade, however, decried a situation where such crusade becomes a calculated attempt to decimate and silence the opposition, while members of the ruling party with serious corruption allegations go about their businesses.
The Deputy President of the Senate who was speaking in the light of the continued detention of Metuh, Senator Ekweremadu said,” the continued detention of the PDP mouthpiece was an attempt to gag the opposition and therefore unhealthy for democracy.”
“An anti-graft trap that catches only members of the opposition and those with axe to grind with the government of the day is compromised.”
He called on the nation to denounce and resist the prevailing situation where people are held in custody against the directives of the courts and laws of the land, insisting that there would be no justice without the rule of law.

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