Nigeria charges student with ‘criminal defamation’ over tweet on first lady

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Nigeria has charged a student with “criminal defamation” over posting a tweet about the physical appearance of the country’s first lady, his lawyer and a judicial source said Thursday.

Aminu Adamu, born in 1998, 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.

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He was detained after the first lady filed a complaint, triggering a police investigation, according to court documents seen by AFP and a judicial source who asked to remain anonymous.

Based on the results of that preliminary investigation, the capital’s police commissioner filed a lawsuit against the student.

“He was arraigned on Tuesday,” his lawyer, Chijioke Kingsley Agu, told AFP by phone.

“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 January 30.

He faces up to two years in prison, according to Nigeria’s penal code.

The police did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment.

According to the court documents, Adamu said he had commented on a photo of the first lady on Twitter. It was not immediately clear whether he had intended to make a joke or accuse her of corruption.

It is not the first time that a post on Twitter causes uproar among the country’s political class – the platform was even suspended for seven months last year.

Amnesty International has 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.

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 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.

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