Dapo Olorunyomi, the publisher of online newspaper, Premium Times, was arrested on Thursday evening, January 19, 2017 along with a judiciary correspondent with the newspaper, Evelyn Okakwu.
Their arrest followed a faceoff with the chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai who accused the newspaper of defamation of character and publishing a libelous story against him.
Olorunyomi and Okakwu were released on bail same evening following a public outcry against the tyrannical nature of the Muhammadu Buhari government. The journalists were instructed to report at the FCT Police Command Headquarters by 8:00 a.m. Friday morning.
According to Premium Times, a highly-placed police source said the invitation could be a ploy to detain the journalists for an extended period.
“From what I understand, if they report tomorrow morning, they will be taken to a Magistrate’s Court and arraigned before a judge that will readily comply with the police arrangement and grant order for them to be detained. That way, they can then claim to be detaining them legally,” the newspaper quotes the source as saying.
The arrest was coming on the heels of a petition written by Osuagwu Ugochukwu, lawyer to Buratai, to the Federal capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police, decrying a “false and malicious story” written by the news medium against his client and its refusal to retract the story.
The police, it was gathered, acted on a warrant of arrest issued against the newspaper by a Wuse 2 Magistrate Court on Wednesday evening as to “enable the police carry out a thorough investigation” into the matter.
The court order for the arrest was issued at the FCT Chief Magistrate Court, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, earlier yesterday afternoon.
In the petition, Buratai’s attorney had complained that the Premium Times informed the public that his client, General Buratai, was being investigated by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
According to him, this story received wide publication and readership, adding that it created a bad image for his client and caused military men on the field to get worried about their boss even when the said story was false and fabricated.
The Nigerian Army had also written to Premium Times, urging the newspaper to withdraw the report.
The newspaper’s managing editor, Idris Akinbajo, hailed the “overwhelming” support from Nigerians and readers around the world. He said the paper would release a full statement after the journalists meet the police on Friday morning.