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Nigerian journalists re-arrested, arraigned on forgery charges

The Group News Editor of
The Group News Editor of "Leadership" Newspapers Group, Mr. Tony Amokeodo, and the paper's Politics correspondent, Mr. Chibuzo Ukaibe

On Monday April 15, 2013, the Nigerian Police re-arrested and detained two Leadership newspaper journalists, Mr. Tony Amokeodo, the Group News Editor, and Mr. Chibuzo Ukaibe, a political reporter.

The journalists were taken to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) headquarters detention facility in Abuja.

Amokeodo and Ukaibe, accompanied by their lawyer, had reported to the Louis Edet House Police Force headquarters at about 11:00am, in compliance with part of the conditions of the bail granted them from their earlier arrest on April 8, when they were taken to SARS where they had their mobile phones seized.

The journalists had previously been detained over a story in the Leadership newspaper titled "Outrage Trail Presidential Directive on Tinubu, APC", which was published on April 3, and a full copy of the presidential directive, published on April 4 and captioned "Bromide of the Presidential Directive".

The journalists tried to find out from those holding them why they were being rearrested and detained on April 15 but the officers assigned to them refused to comment.

On April 16, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) condemned the re-arrest, describing the action as systematic and unwarranted harassment simply for the journalists' work in exposing the government's political machinations.

MRA's Deputy Executive Director, Ms Jennifer Onyejekwe, described the action of the Police as "sheer abuse of power". She said: "The police know that they have no power to hold the journalists for more than 24 hours without a court order. They have therefore resorted to undermining the Constitution by detaining them, releasing them and again detaining them. This is sheer abuse of power and we are calling on the global freedom of expression community to condemn this high-handedness on the part of the Nigerian Government and its law enforcement agencies," she said.

Ms Onyejekwe observed that it was clear from the circumstance that the Police had no evidence of wrongdoing against the journalists and had resorted to a strategy of harassment and intimidation to wear the journalists down and prevent them from carrying out their professional duties.

Ms Onyejekwe reminded the Police that media have the constitutional duty to hold government accountable to the people and warned the police not to allow themselves to be used to encumber them in carrying out that duty.

Arraigned on forgery charges

On April 16, Amokeodo and Ukaibe were charged before a Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, with 10 counts of conspiracy and forgery. Full details on the charges are provided by MRA.

When the journalists were arraigned, the trial judge, Justice Ademola Adeniyi, insisted that the charge must be accompanied with the proof of evidence, statements, exhibits and list of witnesses before the journalists can enter their plea.

Justice Adeniyi, thereafter, released Amokeodo and Ukaibe to the company's secretary, Mr. Umar Jibril, and ordered that they be produced in court for arraignment on April 23.

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