The Kebbi State government has made arrangements to punish Olarenwaju Lawal, a correspondent of The Sun Newspapers for a report which the governor of the state, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, did not like.
Lawal was arrested on Monday, December 17, 2018 hurriedly arraigned in court without a defence lawyer and clamped in prison custody, apparently on the orders of Governor Bagudu.
The police, on the instructions of the Kebbi State government arrested Lawal over an online publication about the abduction of a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart in the state.
The Guardian learnt that the report offended some government officials and the All Progressives Congress APC, prompting the authorities to contact the acting commissioner of police in the state, who ordered Lawal’s arrest, while he was on an official assignment.
The police had accused Lawal of publishing a false report, adding that he neither spoke to its spokesperson, Danjuma Poss, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) nor any police official over the alleged kidnap before going to press.
After interrogating Lawal on the story, the police subsequently arraigned him before a Magistrate’s Court in Birnin-Kebbi, where he was charged for publishing false information.
Olarenwaju, who was taken to court without a legal representative, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge and was remanded in prison till Monday, after the police had asked for a week to enable them conclude their investigation.
Since being remanded in prison custody, the police and Kebbi State government have frustrated his release on bail.
Efforts by a lawyer engaged by the Kebbi chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) to secure Lawals’s bail have so far been frustrated as assurances that he would be bailed Monday was not fulfilled.
Also yesterday, the promise of granting the reporter bail was not fulfilled, as he was not brought to court.
When contacted, the NUJ national president, Chris Isiguzo, expressed surprise that Lawal was still being held after he spoke to the police high command and officials of the Kebbi State government, who promised that application for bail in Monday’s court sitting would not be opposed.
Additional reports by The Guardian.