Nigeria has charged a student with “criminal defamation” over a tweet he posted about the physical appearance of the country’s first lady.
Aminu Adamu was arrested at his university in northern Jigawa state on November 18 and transferred to the capital, Abuja, five months after his online post about Aisha Buhari, the president’s wife.
He was detained after the first lady filed a complaint, triggering a police investigation, according to court documents. Based on the results of that preliminary investigation, the capital’s police commissioner filed a lawsuit against the student.
“He was arraigned on Tuesday,” said Adamu’s lawyer, Chijioke Kingsley Agu. “The charge is criminal defamation against the first lady.”
Adamu was remanded into custody at the Suleja prison near Abuja pending a bail application, and the case was adjourned until 30 January. If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison, according to Nigeria’s penal code.
First Lady photo
According to the court documents, Adamu said he had commented on a photo of the first lady on Twitter. It was not clear whether he had intended to make a joke or to accuse her of corruption.
Amnesty International urged the authorities to release Adamu. “His family and friends alleged that he was held incommunicado and subjected to severe beating, torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” the rights group said. “The bogus charges against Adamu Muhammed must be urgently and unconditionally dropped.”
Allegations of mistreatment against detainees are not uncommon in Africa’s most populous country, despite it having had a stable democracy since 1999 after decades of military dictatorships.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who was elected as a civilian leader in 2015 and 2019, is stepping down next year after his two terms allowed by the constitution.
Voted into office on a promise to crack down on corruption, Buhari leaves mounting problems to his successor, from rampant insecurity to an economy in shambles. Mass youth-led protests over police brutality and bad governance have been violently suppressed under his watch.