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Political editor, deputy editor and marketing manager detained as harassment campaign against "Leadership" newspaper continues

(MRA/IFEX) - On 20 June 2008, Mallam Saidu Sarki Usman, the political editor of the private daily newspaper "Leadership", based in Abuja, Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory, was ordered to be remanded into prison custody. The order was issued by a Chief Magistrate Court presided over by Alhaji Salihu Attahiru in Minna, Niger State, North-central Nigeria. Usman is accused of allegedly publishing an "injurious falsehood" against Alhaji Isa Mohammed, a former senator representing Niger South constituency.

In the offending article, Usman wrote about Mohammed and the family of the deceased Alhaji Bagudu Waziri. The editor is said to have alleged, among other things, that the late Waziri was a ritualist and a cultist; that Mohammed is not the biological father of his children; and that Mohammed's late father used to have sexual intercourse with Mohammed's wives.

After the charges against Usman were read to him, the presiding magistrate ordered that he should be remanded in prison custody until 25 June, when the question of his bail would be considered. The magistrate did not accept the plea of the accused for being granted bail, despite the fact that the public prosecutor did not oppose this possibility, but instead actually told the court that the offence was bailable and that it was at the discretion of the court to grant bail.

In a separate incident, on 2 June officers of the Nigerian police force seized Mallam Danladi Ndayebo, the deputy editor of the same newspaper, and Hajiya Rabi Gambari, its marketing manager, at gunpoint, while the two journalists were on an official assignment in Minna. Ndayebo was later released. Gambari was arraigned before the court and later released on bail.

On 6 May, about a dozen armed, plain-clothed policemen from the Niger State Command raided the head office of the "Leadership" and arrested Ndayebo over a feature article published by the paper.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to authorities:
- calling for the immediate release of Mallam Saidu Sarki Usman
- demanding an end to the continued harassment of staff of "Leadership" newspaper
- asking the police authorities to not intervene in these cases, but to let these disputes be resolved as civil and not criminal matters

APPEALS TO:

Justice Idris Kutigi
Chairman, National Judicial Council
Supreme Court Complex
Three Arms Zone
Abuja, Nigeria
Tel: +234 9 670 5701 / 6218 / 6215 / 6223
Fax: +234 9 234 2751
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]

Mr. Mike Okiro
Inspector General of Police
Force Headquarters
Loius Edet House
Shehu Shagari Way
Area 11 Garki,
Abuja, Nigeria
Tel: +234 9 234 0633 / 0422
Fax: +234 9 234 0422

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

Updates the "Leadership" case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93377

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