The Yoruba World Congress (YWC) has called for the immediate release of Opeyemi Owatimeyin, who was recently arrested for distributing pamphlets extolling the virtues and necessity for a Yoruba nation or Oodua Republic.
The group said Owatimeyin’s continued detention was a violation of his fundamental human rights.
YWC President, Professor Banji Akintoye, in a statement on Thursday, said Owatimeyin ought to be released with immediate effect.
According to the statement, “The Yoruba World Congress condemns the arrest of Opeyemi Owatimeyin by security agents and keeping him in unlawful detention against the extant laws of the land.
“According to information at our disposal, which we have confirmed from many sources, which included Owatimeyin’s lawyers, the Owatimeyin was seized by security agents at Iyara in Kogi State on August 26, and has been in detention ever since.
“Efforts by his lawyers to secure his release according to law have been rebuffed. This violates Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which guarantees the right to personal liberty.
“A detaining or arresting authority is granted 24 hours of custody of Nigerians, if courts are available within a radius of 40 kilometres or maximum of 48 hours in other situations.
“Under the law, only a court of competent jurisdiction, upon due process, can authorise a longer period of detention of persons.
“To the best of our knowledge, this provision of the law has not been adhered to in the case of Owatimeyin. Therefore, the continued detention of Owatimeyin violates the laws of the land; and Nigeria, being a country under law, this flagrant breach of the law ought not to be so.
“This is neither a banana republic nor is it a dictatorship. We portend to the world at large that we operate a democracy in which the fundamental human rights of every citizen must not only be recognised, but also respected and protected.
“The ‘sin’ of Owatimeyin, according to the reports at our disposal, is that he was allegedly distributing pamphlets extolling the virtues and necessity for a Yoruba nation or Oodua Republic.
“Again, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees the right to freedom of speech and of association to every citizen.
“The Charter of the United Nations which Nigeria ratified grants the right to self-determination.”