The Kebbi State government, led by Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has put machinery in motion to persecute The Sun’s correspondent in the state, Olarenwaju Lawal, who was arrested last week Monday, hurriedly arraigned in court without a defence lawyer and clamped in prison custody.
The police, on the instructions of the Kebbi State government, arrested Lawal over an online publication the day before about the abduction of a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
The report, it was gathered, offended some officials of the Kebbi State government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, prompting them to contact the Acting Commissioner of Police in the state, who ordered Lawal’s arrest while he was on an official engagement.
The police had accused the reporter of publishing a false report, adding also that he neither spoke to their spokesperson in the state, DSP Danjuma Poss, nor to any official of the police in the state over the alleged kidnap incident before going to press.
After interrogating the reporter on the said story, the police subsequently arraigned him before a magistrates’ court in Birnin-Kebbi, the state capital, where he was charged with a one-count charge of disseminating wrongful 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 sought for a week to enable them conclude their investigation.
Since the remand of the reporter in prison, the police and the Kebbi State government have frustrated his release on bail.
Efforts made by a lawyer engaged by the Kebbi State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to secure Lawal’s bail have been frustrated. The promise that bail would be granted last Monday was not fulfilled.
Also, yesterday, the second promise of granting the reporter bail was not fulfilled, as he was not even brought to court.
When contacted, the NUJ national president, Mr. Chris Isiguzo, expressed surprise that the reporter 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 last Monday’s court sitting would not be opposed.
Meanwhile, the police have washed their hands off the case, claiming that the case file was with the Kebbi State Ministry of Justice, while the state government is not making efforts to ensure bail is granted.
Sources said the state government was employing delay tactics to keep the reporter in prison throughout Christmas and New Year celebrations.