In a distressing turn of events, 30 mothers and widows, among others, find themselves spending another weekend behind bars after a Chief Magistrate Court in Lafia, Nasarawa State, remanded them at the Correctional Centre. The arrest and subsequent arraignment stemmed from their alleged involvement in violence and destruction of public facilities following the Supreme Court’s validation of Governor Abdullahi Sule’s election.
The suspects, predominantly women, were apprehended by the Nigeria Police, deployed to troubled locations in Lafia to maintain law and order. Supporters of opposition candidate David Ombugadu, they claimed he won the gubernatorial election in March 2023. This echoes the nonchalant attitude witnessed in previous incidents, such as the EndSARS protests in 2021, highlighting the undermining of democracy.
Despite being granted bail on January 25, none of the accused have been able to meet the stringent conditions set by the presiding Magistrate, Mohammed Abdullahi-Lanze. These conditions include securing a surety not below the position of a Director with the State or Federal Government, submitting substantial financial collateral, and providing extensive documentation.
ActionAid Nigeria’s Response:
“We fiercely condemn the arrest of protesters in Nasarawa State, demanding their immediate release and upholding of their right to peaceful assembly. Suppressing dissent undermines democracy – we call for justice, transparency, and respect for human rights!”
In response to the perceived severity of the bail conditions, the Counsel of the defendants has applied for a review. Barrister Esson Mairiga, a Member of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, has offered to stand as a surety for the accused persons. However, the application for the review of bail conditions may face opposition, as the Counsel claims that some of the defendants are “passersby and non-residents of the State.”
As the accused individuals await their fate, the call for justice echoes louder. ActionAid Nigeria continues to advocate for the immediate release of the protesters, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the right to peaceful assembly and expression.