BudgIT, a civic society accountability organisation, has decried the illegal arrest and detention of its Niger State Project Tracking Officer, PTO, Moses Motoni.
The group, which described Mr. Motoni's arrest as an assault on democratic accountability in the country, said it intends to press charges against the Police for the unlawful conduct.
In a statement by its communications lead, Abiola Afolabi-Sosami, BudgIT said contrary to the claim by the Police that Mr. Motoni was "inciting public disturbance", it was unaware of any such attempt.
"We maintain that his arrest was on the order of Senator Mohammed Sani of Niger State and abuse against human rights provision, which Moses has as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also ask that the Nigerian Police should respect the rights of citizens and embrace reforms that further professional conduct," Mr. Afolabi-Sosami said.
Recounting Mr. Motoni's ordeal, Mr. Afolabi-Sosami said the controversy started when he visited Bida, Niger South Senatorial District to sensitise the community members on the zonal intervention projects awarded to their constituency in the 2017 Budget.
"The exact project was the "installation of transformers and electrification of the following communities: Nowanya-Tawadzuru tiffin-Emitswachi-Tawadzuru Tako in Gbako LGA, Niger South Senatorial District, Niger State for N25million, as stated in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
"Moses encouraged the community members to engage their representatives at the National Assembly and ensure the budgeted projects are implemented.
"Shortly after the town hall meeting in Bida, Senator Sani Mohammed put a phone call through to our PTO, Moses Motoni, inviting him to a meeting in his house, which he declined as there were instructions that BudgIT tracking personnel are not allowed to meet with public officials privately.
"However, on the December 5, 2017, Moses received an SMS instructing him to pick up a DHL parcel at Markafi market in Kaduna.
"Unknown to our PTO, it was a decoy by the Nigerian Police Force to apprehend him. Upon arrival, he was forcefully taken into a car, handcuffed, maltreated and driven off by SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) officials who disguised as DHL personnel," Mr. Afolabi-Sosami narrated.
"BudgIT was distraught at the development considering that Moses Motoni was merely exercising his rights as a citizen in a democratic nation like Nigeria. It is important to note that public information is the right of every Nigerian citizen, vis a vis public funds meant for developmental projects.
"The information received pointed Senator Mohammed Sani of Niger State as the alleged architect of the arrest involving the SARS and our officer, Moses Motoni."
Following his arrest, he said Mr. Motoni was taken to the Metro Police Station, Enugu Road in Kaduna and subsequently transferred to Abuja in hands and legs' cuffs, while his aged mother wailed on as he was led away by the police.
Mr. Motoni spent the night at the SARS Office, Old Abattoir, Abuja, despite all efforts to get him out.
In its statement on Wednesday, the police said Mr. Motoni was arrested for reportedly "inciting public disturbance." He was later released on bail.
Regardless, BudgIT management said it intends to press charges for the arrest and detention of the official.
"We count this as an assault on democracy and that Moses is unaware and does not participate in any move to topple any king within the domain."
Budgit also addressed a press conference in Abuja, where its leader, Oluseun Onigbinde, made similar statements.
Narrating his ordeal to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Motoni said on December 2 he visited Bida to sensitise the community members on the zonal intervention projects awarded to their constituency in 2017 Budget.
"The exact project was the installation of transformers and electrification in Nowanya-Tawadzuru, tiffin-Emitswachi-Tawadzuru Tako communities in Gbako Local Governement area of Niger State".
"My assignment was to encourage the community members to engage their representatives at the National Assembly and ensure the budgeted projects are implemented".
"Shortly after the town hall meeting in Bida, Senator Sani Mohammed put a call through to me inviting me to a meeting in his house which I declined as there were instructions that we are not allowed to meet public officials privately," he added.
However, Mr. Motini said his friend who he was with received an SMS instruction him to pick a DHL parcel at Makarfi market in Kaduna on December 5.
"Upon arrival before we could blink, we were forcefully taken into a car, handcuffed, manhandled by security operatives on mufti and driven to a police station around Tudun Wada".
"My friend was later released but I was subsequently transferred to Abuja with both hands and legs cuffed and driven to SARS office Old Abattoir, Apo, Abuja where I spent the night", he added.