The legal team representing Muhammad Mahdi Shehu, a well-known social critic, activist, whistleblower, and prominent businessman in Kaduna, has confirmed his arrest and detention. According to a statement released by his lawyers, M. I. Abubakar, Abubakar Mustapha & Associates, Shehu was apprehended in Abuja by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Monitoring Unit on allegations of attempting to extort ₦500 million.
The lawyers explained that Shehu’s arrest was based on a petition purportedly submitted by the law firm of the former Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, accusing Shehu of extortion. Despite the petition primarily focusing on allegations of hacking and compromising emails and bank accounts of Malami and his family, with no mention of Shehu, the police claimed to have arrested him based on a WhatsApp chat allegedly showing an extortion attempt.
The timing of Shehu’s arrest, following his public criticisms of certain government officials, particularly those associated with the previous administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, raises suspicions of political motivation. Shehu had recently made allegations on social media regarding a campaign of calumny against a government official appointed by President Bola Tinubu to investigate the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
This is not the first time Shehu has faced such circumstances. He had been previously arrested and detained by the same IGP Monitoring Unit between 2021 and 2022 over allegations he made against officials of the Katsina State Government. On those occasions, the courts found his detention unlawful and unconstitutional, awarding him compensation.
Shehu’s legal team insists on his innocence regarding the extortion allegations and calls for respect for his constitutional rights, including the right to bail pending investigation and the right to dignity while in custody. They assert that Shehu has been targeted for his outspokenness against powerful figures, particularly within the previous administration.
The statement concludes with Shehu’s firm denial of the allegations against him and his determination to defend his innocence against what he perceives as politically motivated persecution.