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Alleged Defamation: Court acquits journalists, chides police, magistrate over shoddy trial

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The Kwara State High Court, sitting as an appellate court in Ilorin, has discharged and acquitted two journalists convicted of publishing a defamatory article against a rice factory, faulting the police and trial magistrate’s ruling.

In February 2023, a magistrate’s court convicted Alfred Olufemi, an investigative reporter, and Gidado Shuaib, editor of Abuja-based News Digest, over a report against Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries Limited.

The report published in News Digest in 2018 detailed how the company’s staff members smoked Indian hemp freely within its premises, violating relevant laws and health regulations.

In his verdict, the trial magistrate, A.S. Muhammad, found the journalists guilty of criminal conspiracy and defamation. He then sentenced the journalists to two months imprisonment with an option of fine.

But the journalists immediately appealed the judgement at the state High Court, where a three-man panel reviewed the trial court’s judgement.

The journalists’ lawyer, Yunus AbdulSalam, urged the appellate court to quash the lower court’s conviction. The Abuja-based lawyer argued that the respondent, the prosecution at the lower court, did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt as the report of the police investigation it relied on was already issued before the appellants were invited for questioning.

He also argued that the trial magistrate did not regard the testimony of the journalists’ key witness and their defence, among other issues raised during the trial.

Acquittal
Delivering its judgement on 14 February, a three-man panel comprising Justice M.O Adegbite, Justice S.B Olanipekun and Justice S.M Akanbi, ruled that they had no difficulty in resolving the issue in favour of the appellants.

“We find merit in the appeal, set aside the conviction and sentence. We allow the appeal and enter a verdict of discharge and acquittal for the appellants,” said the presiding judge, Justice Akanbi.

Reacting to the outcome of the appeal, the journalists’ lawyer, Mr. AbdulSalam described the decision of the court as a victory for his clients and press freedom in Nigeria.

“For nearly six years, these young journalists fought to reclaim their innocence and I’m happy that the appeal court delivered justice. This is a win for truth, press freedom and rule of law,” he said.

Shoddy police investigation
Meanwhile, in the 25-page judgement obtained by PRNigeria, the presiding judge took a swipe at the police and the trial magistrate over their roles in the conviction of the journalists.

“I think with all due respect to the learned magistrate, he came to the conclusion after taking into consideration the prosecution’s investigation report which came out before the arrest and invitation of the Appellant.”

The judges stated that besides the fact that the evidence of the prosecution witness sharply contradicted the evidence tendered by the witness, the report coming out before investigation leaves much to be desired

They maintained that despite the contradiction in evidence presented by the prosecution, the trial court took the narration of the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) hook line and sinker.

“The shoddy and shady investigation embarked upon by the police must have misled the trial magistrate court to its finding without regard to the evidence of the Appellants,” the judgement read.

“Investigation report came before an invitation of the Appellants to exhibit P6 and the defence of the DW1 were jettisoned for the evidence of the prosecution witnesses. Every doubt ought to have been resolved in favour of the defence in criminal cases.”

Overwhelmed magistrate
The appellate judges also described the magistrate as being overwhelmed by the evidence of the prosecution witnesses without taking into proper account the defence of the defendants.

“The defence of the Appellants ought to be considered. In other words, the principle of natural justice ought to be taken into consideration instead of the prosecution’s evidence alone.The learned trial judge got carried away with the confessional statement and PW2’s evidence without regard to the evidence of the defendants,” the judgement read.

They pointed out that a traverse through the evidence on record showed that the elements contained in section 392 of the penal code, which the magistrate relied on, were not proven by the prosecution.

Former CBN chief absent from court
One of the grounds cited for the acquittal of the journalists was that Sarah Alade, a former acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who the police claimed was defamed was never in court to give evidence.

This newspaper recalls that at the start of the trial in 2019, Mrs Alade, who was then serving as the special assistant to former President Muhammadu Buhari, was named the owner of Hillcrest Agro-allied but never showed up in court.

But midway into the trial, the company claimed it belonged to Mrs Alade’s son, one Ayo Alade, who later appeared in court to give evidence.

“For emphasis, while exhibit P2 says the company is owned by Sarah Alade who is said to be defamed. The evidence of PW1 at page 89 says the company Hillcrest Agro Allied Industry Limited does not belong to Dr.(Mrs.) Sarah Alade,” The court judgement said.

“We are of the firm view also that the finding of the trial magistrate, particularly PW2, the confessional statement held to have sufficiently established the offence of conspiracy and defamation against the 1st and 2nd defendant is not proved.”

“With all due respect, we hold the view for the above-stated reasons that the trial magistrate’s finding was not well founded,” the judges concluded.

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No Amount Of Foreign Aid Can Save Nigeria – Says Tinubu, Gives Reason

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday stated that no amount of aid from foreign countries or any other nation will fix Nigeria because “they take care of themselves first.”

The President said this when he appeared before a joint sitting of the National Assembly in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Tinubu’s visit to the lawmakers comes as the nation marked 25 years of unbroken democracy.

The President stepped into the parliament at 12:28pm, accompanied by the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima.

Upon his arrival, the lawmakers recited the new national anthem, “Nigeria, we hail thee” which the President had earlier signed into law.

He briefed the MPs and praised them for their efforts in preserving the nation’s democracy for over two decades.

He continued: “Out of respect, I want to say thank you very much. This is the institution building the country.

“Our friends, old and new, to every Nigerian, I say congratulations to 25 years of unbroken democracy.”

“You rang out the latest national anthem, ‘Nigeria, we hail thee’. This is our diversity, representing all characters and how we blend to be brothers and sisters.

“We have no other choice; it is our nation. No other institution or personality will help us unless we do it ourselves. No amount of aid from foreign countries or any other nation (will fix us), they take care of themselves first. Let us work together as we are doing to build our nation, not only for us but for generations unborn.”

The Senate and the House of Representatives had previously passed the legislation to swap the national anthem from “Arise, O Compatriots” to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” at separate sittings.

Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who lived in Nigeria during its independence, penned the lyrics for “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” while Frances Berda composed the music. The anthem played a significant role in shaping Nigeria’s national identity and unity during the 1960s and late 1970s.

He said, “Without this house (parliament), probably, I may not have found the path to the Presidency. It started all here. Please, continue to collaborate and work together. We have no other choice. It is our nation.”

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Reno Omokri Criticizes Tinubu Government: Calls Return of Old National Anthem a Step Backward and Unnecessary act

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

Reno omokri a former Aide to President Goodluck Jonathan had reacted to changing of the Nigerian anthem to the old anthem, In a tweet on X (formerly known as Twitter) , he said “My heart is very heavy about Nigeria right now because, in my opinion, we just took a giant step backwards in our national journey. Now, do not get me wrong, I support the current economic policies of my country. Fuel subsidy removal and Naira flotation are necessary policies that any lover of Nigeria should adhere to regardless of party affiliation.

One of the most unnecessary acts of governance in Nigeria in recent times is the law returning the old National Anthem. First of all, there was nothing wrong with the existing anthem. Secondly, with all of the multifaceted issues we face, it seems like we have a lack of priorities, when we major on such a settled issue as an anthem.

To me, it looks like a step backwards to discard the ‘Arise, O Compatriots’ National Anthem written by a collective of young Nigerians, including John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, B. A. Ogunnaike, Sota Omoigui and P. O. Aderibigbe in 1978, for ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’, written by an English woman, Lillian Jean Williams.

Does it not sound preposterous that a foreigner should write our National Anthem? Are we that shallow and uninspired that we cannot come up with our own indigenous anthem? You can imagine the land of such music icons, like Fela Kuti, Osita Osadebe, Dan Maraya Jos, and contemporary stars, like Sade Adu, Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid, importing music of national significance from Britain. As my Yoruba brethren will say, ‘O wrong now!’

Already, the name Nigeria was given to us by another English lady, Flora Shaw. And she named us in 1897 in much the same way you name a dog. She did it tongue in cheek, for an article she wrote for The Times of London.

We ought to have even changed that name to something indigenous, such as the Republic of Wazobia, as Ghana did in 1957 when she changed from Gold Coast to Ghana at Independence in 1957.

We should also have reverted to the original name for Lagos, Eko. Lagos is an imposed Portuguese name. The annoying thing is that the Portuguese who renamed Eko as Lagos were just opportunistic slave traders who did not set up any viable administrative structure.

Instead of undertaking these name changes, we are rather doubling down on another colonial relic by discarding the anthem written by our own citizens for one written by a foreigner.

I dare anyone reading this to name another country whose National Anthem was written by a foreigner. Even a Banana Republic would not do that!

In my humble opinion, President Tinubu ought not to have assented to that bill. Instead, he should have written a strongly worded letter to communicate to the National Assembly the implications on our sovereignty and national psyche to revert to an anthem written by a foreigner, which would make us a free nation that willingly chose to return to the yoke of imperialism.

Is it too late for the President to do what he ought to have done? No. He is our Head of State and has a duty to promote indigenous ideas over imperialistic ones”.

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APC Lawmakers throw weight behind Ado Bayero

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

As the emirship tussle continues in Kano State, the 12 members of the All Progressives Congress in the House of Assembly have pledged allegiance to the 15th Emir, Aminu Ado Bayero.

Led by the minority leader, Labaran Abdul Madari, the 12 lawmakers from APC paid homage to Ado Bayero at the Nassarawa Palace after the assembly’s plenary session on Tuesday.

Recall that a crisis has broken out since the reinstatement of Muhammadu Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of Kano at the weekend, after Governor Abba Yusuf repealed the five emirates council.

Both Sanusi and Ado Bayero have refused to bow to pressure of different court orders asking them to vacate the palace.

This has created tension in the city as different organisations including the police, ulamas, eminent figures, lawyers, politicians have tried to wade in to resolve the matter but the two sides refused to budge.

Meanwhile, as the APC lawmakers in the State House paid a visit to Ado Bayero, Kantin Kwari Market Traders Association did the same to Sanusi on Tuesday.

The delegation of the traders led by the state’s Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Adamu Aliyu Kibiya, was at the emir’s palace, Kofar Kudu to register their allegiance and loyalty to the monarch.

Sanusi enjoined the traders to uphold the principles of honesty and fairness in all their business transactions, noting that Kano remains a leading commercial centre, attracting merchants from outside the country because of the contribution of traders.

The emir has been receiving visitors coming to pay homage since Sunday when 40 district heads and title holders pledged their allegiance.

Findings showed that vigilante groups and local hunters (Yan Tauri) are still keeping vigil at the palace.

Five DSS operatives were seen manning an entrance to one of the offices of the emir at Gidan Rumfa.

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