Forty-year-old Helen Odaudu, the mother of a civilian, Emmanuel, who has been languishing in the Nigerian Military Special Investigation Bureau underground cell in Abuja for eight months over an old Facebook video, has appealed to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), to assist in securing the release of her son.
Helen also appealed to the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, to intervene in Emmanuel’s continued detention, lamenting that her son was suffering unjustly.
It was reported that Emmanuel’s ordeal started when he posted videos of himself rapping in his uniform while he was in the Army and after being detained for three months, he was reportedly dismissed by the military authorities for his action.
The narrative, however, took another dimension when the military tracked Emmanuel down to his home town in Benue State on June 12, 2020, on the allegation that he impersonated the Army when one of the videos that led to his dismissal resurfaced online.
Speaking on Wednesday, Helen said the military authorities had been treating her son like a criminal because of the videos and urged the President to use his office as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to get Emmanuel released.
She said, “I am pleading with the President, Muhammadu Buhari, to ask the Nigerian Army to release my son. He has suffered a lot in detention. My son didn’t run away from the job, they dismissed him, because of one mistake and after his dismissal, they came back to re-arrest him and have kept him in detention for eight months without trial. He is a civilian and should be handed over for trial in a civilian court, because he is no longer a soldier.
“My son is not a criminal; he is not a murderer or kidnapper or a terrorist, so what has he done? All he did was to post a video of him rapping; if there is any other thing he has done, they should come out to tell Nigerians. I am also pleading with the new Chief of Army Staff to intervene so that my son can be released. I have been depressed and helpless.”
However, indications emerged that part of the reasons why Emmanuel has been languishing in detention was because the Nigerian Army kept paying his salary months after his dismissal from service.
It was learnt that the Nigerian Army had demanded a refund of the money paid into his account, and urged Emmanuel to sell his property to raise the money.
Reacting, Helen said, “After locking him up for eight months they are now talking about money; what about the inhumane treatment my son has been subjected to? Whenever I ask why he was detained, they kept saying it was because of the videos he posted, which he was dismissed for. They are now compelling him to pay back the N1.3m salary they paid him after his dismissal.
“My son didn’t run away from the job; he was dismissed, and after his dismissal, the Army authorities should have closed his account. It is not my son’s fault; the lapses are from the Army authorities. They have been questioning him on how to refund the N1.3m and have also been asking him if he has property to sell to raise the amount. But he has nothing.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians have condemned the continued detention of Emmanuel ever since his ordeal became public knowledge.
While one Joseph Adegbola urged the government and military authorities to handle Emmanuel’s case by upholding the tenets of democracy, another social media user, @croximagery, wrote, “Military is an embodiment of discipline and I appreciate them for that but they should not use a sledge hammer to kill a fly. Dismissal is enough punishment, detaining him further is like wanting him dead either in custody or upon release. He is now a civilian and he should be treated likewise.”
When contacted regarding Emmanuel’s continued detention, the spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, said, “Are you his lawyer? Is that the work of a journalist? Can you stand in a court of competent jurisdiction? You are a journalist and you have a limit to your story. In journalism, do you know what we call carryover of a story? If there is a story coming out from the junior level, it will reach a level where it will be hijacked from him at the higher level.
“You are not a lawyer and you are contending with the military; it is not good and healthy for your organisation. This work that you want to put on my head is not my work. The work is for the lawyer and the Directorate of Military Intelligence; when they finish their investigation, they push their report to us to tell the world. Their report has not reached us. The spokesman who will give you a balanced account has not got the report, so how can he balance your story for you?”