Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
A Magistrate Court in Kebbi State on Monday granted bail to The Sun reporter, Mr. Olarenwaju Lawal, who has been incarcerated for two weeks at the instance of the Kebbi State Government over a report it deems offensive.
Chief Magistrate, Ghali Muhammadu, in his submission on the written application filed by counsels to the parties, admitted that the offence allegedly committed by the accused person was a bailable one but added that it must be done with strict conditions.
Magistrate Ghali further said that the one-count charge of injurious falsehood against the accused person was contrary to Section 393 of the Penal Code Law of Kebbi State and capable of causing rancour.
He, however, allied with the applicant’s counsel’s argument hinging on Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.”
“I have reasoned with arguments on the bail application presented by both parties and make these submissions as follow: That the offence in question is ordinarily a bailable one. That Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that: ‘Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.’”
In his ruling, the Chief Magistrate admitted the accused person to bail. “I thereby admitt the accused person to bail with strict conditions as follow. That one, the accused person shall present a surety to be a civil servant working with Kebbi State government on the Grade 15 as a director, or, two, pay five hundred Naira in like sum.
“Three, that the surety shall have immovable property worth two-million Naira. That any breach would automatically have the bail revoked,” he ruled.
Earlier, the applicant’s counsel, Barrister Ojum Clement Chinedum, in his motion on notice for bail argued that the offence committed was not a capital offence.
The motion was supported with a 20-paragraph affidavit which was accompanied with a written address.
Barrister Ojum cited Ali v. State (2012) 22 W.R.N page 131 lines 25–35 stating that “in a bail application pending trial, the court can normally grant bail ex-debito Justitia (as a matter of right or in accordance with the requirements of justice) where the offence is not a capital offence.
“Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.
“The Court of Appeal per Muhammad, JCA in Obioma V F.R.N (2005) 13 W.R.N Page 154 lines 10-25 held that: “Bail is a right guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999,” Ojum further submitted.
The state’s solicitor, Mr. Bala Likita, who stood in for the State Attorney-General, had earlier filed a 4- paragraph affidavit with a written address to oppose the application for bail. He, however, did not cite any authority.
The case was adjourned to January 21, 2019, for trial.