The case of Messrs Abdulrasheed Akogun Shoboi and Dare Akogun of Sobi FM, detained over alleged defamation against Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, the Chief Press Secretary to Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq may well be another test case for freedom of expression.
The two brothers have already been charged to an Ilorin Magistrate Court after taking such option instead of tendering an apology to the complainant as advised by Commissioner of Police in Kwara State, CP Paul Odama.
CASEFILE gathered that two other journalists, Editor-in-Chief of Fresh Insight, Ibrahim Sheriff and Ajadi Ridwan Hajard were also arrested shortly after a protest by the Association of Kwara Online Media Practitioners, ASKOMP, and some youths at Police Headquarters, Ilorin to demand for immediate release of Abdulrasheed and Dare Akogun.
Why were these brothers of same pen profession arrested, detained and remanded in Mandala correctional facility by the Magistrate court in the first instance?
Information available to CASEFILE, communicated by Agboola Moshood, Deputy Chief Press Secretary to the Governor on Thursday, October 6, 2022 stated that the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Kwara State, Ajakaye petitioned the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Police Force requesting it to investigate and prosecute Abdulrasheed Akogun (Shoboi) and his brother Dare Akogun for alleged criminal defamation against his person.
Ajakaye, in his petition addressed to the Commissioner of Police, explained that the duo committed the offence through their WhatsApp posts on September 30, 2022 in which they accused him of facilitating over N15million of public funds to prosecute the last chairmanship election of the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ.
Disagreeing with the journalists, Ajakaye said the allegations amounted to injurious falsehood and criminal defamation of his character.
He also posited thus, “the allegations were another way of inciting the public against Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and other members of his government.
“These claims on the popular WhatsApp platform are, on all fronts, malicious and mere concocted lies. These claims have given rise to injurious insinuations and snide remarks against my person. I seek legitimate protection of the law to save my name as a human being, family man, citizen, and public officer,” the Chief Press Secretary to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said.
Responding to the petition, the Police boss in the state, through the Command Spokesperson, SP Okasanmi Ajayi in a statement issued on Thursday debunked what it described as an allegation by ASKOMP of being a biased umpire in the investigation against the two members of their association.
According to the Spokesperson, the online journalists belonging to ASKOMP were mainly seeking undue and unmerited sympathy of members of the public by the two suspects over an alleged inciting, defamation and cyber bullying case capable of inciting violence in the state, as contained in a petition written by Ajakaye.
Speaking on behalf of the police boss, “The allegation of bias alleged against the Commissioner of Police is baseless, unfounded and opportunistic, the suspects felt they have the instrument of blackmail they could deploy to tarnish the image of the CP which is the social media hence their resolve to go online with the story of bias to curry the sympathy of their readers which has fallen flat on arrival.”
“The case is being investigated by operatives attached to the State CID of the command. The suspects one Abdbulrasheed Akogun and Dare Akogun were brought before the Commissioner of Police, CP Paul Odama psc (+) where the duo confessed to the authorship of the offensive and criminal accusations against the persons of the Governor and the petitioner in the presence of their lawyers and some members of the press.
He added that the CP made it known to the suspects after interviewing them on the offensive write up which they published on some WhatsApp groups and which they confessed to.
The suspects were said to have been told the seriousness and consequences of their actions, and were advised by the CP to make peace with the complainant and seek for ways of settling the matter by apologising to the petitioner since they are all of the same pen profession, and that he would have no option than to charge the two of them to court.
Quoting the Police source further, “To the chagrin of the CP, the suspects accepted the option of being charged to court, as according to them they have enough evidences against the petitioner to proof their case in court.
The command pledged that it would always uphold the truth at all times and discharge its duty diligently and in line with global best practices devoid of bias, intimidation and favouritism.
The siblings have been charged to court, because police claimed it has concluded investigation into the matter.
This is seemingly another opportunity for the law court to uphold the rule of law and secure their freedom of expression.
This case might have to be entertained at the upper court, not only because the defendants were said to have been denied of being represented by a Senior Advocate at the lower court, it is safe to say the court lacks the jurisdiction to try the ‘culprits’.
What remains to also be seen is a repeat of history, where a Katsina-born crusader, Mr. Mahdi Shehu, was arrested and incarcerated by the Nigeria Police Force in December 2020.
The allegation against him was also defamation in the manner these gentlemen of the pen profession were hounded to the dock for perceived defamation.
Their alledged offences were similar to that of Mahdi Shehu, but on this case, the petitioner is claiming that they accused him of being corrupt; (For allegedly facilitating over N15m of public funds to prosecute the last chairmanship election of the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ.
For alleging corruption and misappropriation of N52 billion worth of funds against Governor Aminu Bello Masari, Mahdi Shehu in his application before the High Court for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory found the Nigeria Police Force liable for the infringement of Mr Mahdi Shehu fundamental right, where the court awarded the sum of five million naira against the Police.
So where would the pendulum swing this time? Your answer is as good as mine.