Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the issuance of the public statement by Mr. Afegbua and the denial by General Babangida it ought to be pointed out that no criminal offense known to law has been committed to warrant the action of the Inspector General of Police. More so, that both General Babangida and President Buhari have not complained that the controversial press statement has defamed them. In fact, if the statement is considered defamatory whoever is injured would have to institute a civil suit where he will be required to put his own reputation in issue. In Arthur Nwankwo v The State (1985) 4 NCLR 228, the Court of Appeal had cautioned public officers in Nigeria to desist from invoking undemocratic laws which were introduced by the erstwhile British colonial regime to harass or intimidate their political opponents. According to Olajide Olatawura JCA (as he then was of blessed memory):
“The decision of the founding fathers of this present Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech which must include freedom to criticize should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided in the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism. Where a writer exceeds the bounds there should be a resort to the law of libel where the plaintiff must of necessity put his character and reputation in issue.”
Since General Babangida has now turned round to insist that he authorized Mr. Afegbua to issue the controversial statement it is hoped that he will be prepared to say so in a criminal court. His testimony will go a long way to destroy the criminal case which the Inspector-General intends to institute against Mr. Afegbua. However, the Inspector-general of Police should be advised not to popularise the discredited views of both Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida who failed woefully to institutionalized democracy, rule of law, human rights, self-reliance and probity during the 20 years that both of them had ruled the country.
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