John Shiklam writes on the arrest and detention of a Kaduna-based broadcaster, Segun Onibiyo, who spent 24 days in prison following allegations that he posted inciting and defamatory comments on social media against Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State
After spending 24 days in prison, Segun Onibiyo, a broadcaster with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Kaduna was granted bail by a Kaduna High Court presided by Justice Darius Khobo.
Onibiyo who was arraigned by the police on November 23 before a Chief Magistrate Court, presided by Huzaifa Machido, was recently remanded in prison.
He was arrested by the police in Kaduna on November 23, 2018 over alleged incitement, defamation of character and injurious falsehood against the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Expectedly, his detention without bail was condemned by some activists and pro-democracy groups.
According to the police First Information Report (FIR), dated November 14, 2018, Onibiyo was accused of incitement, disturbance, defamation of character and injurious falsehood.
The FIR reads in part: “On November 14, 2018, at bout 1500 hours, one Mohammed Bashir Saidu, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Kaduna, in his letter of complaint, addressed to the commissioner of police, Kaduna state, reported that Onibiyo posted on his Facebook page, an inciting, defamatory and injurious falsehood statement against Governor Nasir el-Rufai as follows:
“That he changed the status of traditional council from chiefdom to emirate, Agom Adara resisted, he was killed. That the governor made his threat true to the good people of southern Kaduna who are predominantly Christian by picking a Muslim deputy governor.
“That let him appoint her as his personal god and saviour, Kadalites will decide the fate of that inconsistent, incompetent, wicked, malicious, jihadist, religious jingoist.
“In the course of the investigation on the suspect Onibiyi Segun Mike Gbenga was arrested and he confessed to be the owner of the Facebook account contrary to sections 78, 372 and 373 of the penal code law”.
On his part, Onibiyo denied the allegations, saying that he had nothing to do with the post as his Facebook was hacked before 2015. In his statement to the police, he said he stopped using the Facebook account after it was hacked.
“I wish to state categorically that I have nothing to do with the post. My Facebook account with the name SMG Onibiyo was hacked pre-2015.
I had since reported same to Facebook and while I could not recover the account, I opened another in the name Segun Onibiyo, which was equally hacked.
“I had since stopped using Facebook in those aforementioned names and instead continued the use of two other accounts – MrJejeSupreme and Miongs Communications – as medium of facebooking.
“I am a journalist and understand full well the implication of attacking public figures or individuals in private or public space. I may have my opinion on issues but I will never in any way attack anyone in such injurious manner, especially on Facebook or anywhere else.
“I want my name cleared for any form of attack on personalities as I do not have access to the Facebook account where these allegations were posted. Family members and friends have always called to ask if I sent them pictures and even pornographic image, which I have always explained I did not. I am an upright individual and family and friends can attest to my character, even on my program on radio – Oga Jeje.
“In conclusion, once again, my account SMG Onibiyo was hacked pre-2015 and I have since then moved on and not on Facebook in that name. I reported the hack to Facebook but not to any security agency as I did not envisage the threat it could pose” he said in his statement.
Onibiyo who was arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court, Ibrahim Taiwo road, Kaduna, was charged with alleged defamation of character and false statement against Governor el-Rufai, contrary to the provisions of sections 78, 372 and 373 of the Penal Code.
Though he pleaded not guilty to the allegations, the Presiding Chief Magistrate, Huzaifa Machido denied him bail and remanded him at the Kaduna Prison. However, his counsels, led by Jacob Amangwai, challenged the decision of the lower court for refusing bail to their client.
Amangwi maintained that “all the offences which Onibiyo is standing trial for, are bailable offences and there was no reason why he should be denied bail, hence the decision to approach the state high court.
On Wednesday December 12, Justice Khobo who presided over the matter, granted bail to
Onibiyo in the sum of N2 million bond and a reliable surety in like sum.
The judge ordered that the surety must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court and must be a property owner in Kaduna which must be verified by the Kaduna Geographic Information Service.
The prosecuting counsel Mohammed Kufena, from the state ministry of justice, had argued that Onibiyo should not be granted because, according to him, “the offence alleged against the applicant is technical, as it borders on postings on the social media and if released on bail, he would likely contravene sections 175 A, C, D and E.
Justice Khobo, in granting bail, maintained that “the case is not a capital offence” adding that Nigeria is under a democracy and not under military dictatorship.
However Onibiyo could not be immediately released from prison as bail conditions needed to be perfected before he was freed.
Week after week, family members, friends and his admirers rallied round to perfect the bail conditions which led to his release from prison on Tuesday, December 18, at about 6:00pm. He was received amid cheers and jubilation by family members, friends and activists, as he walked out to the prison gate.
Beaming with smiles, Onibiyo who stepped out of the Kaduna prison, was unruffled and lively as he was received by family members, friends and activists as he hugged and exchanged banters with them.
He however declined to make any comments about his ordeal in detention, saying he needed to consult his lawyers.
Folakemi, Onibiyo’s wife, told THISDAY in an interview that her husband’s freedom was a big relief to the family.
“It has been so terrible, I have never experienced such in my life. I have heard news about people being incarcerated and something else happened to them. That was my fear. I am very happy that he has been granted bail. Initially, I was so worried that he may not be granted bail at the high court” she said.
She also expressed gratitude to all those who stood by the family and assisted in perfecting the bail conditions for which led to the release of her husband.
The case was adjourned to February 28, 2019 when Onibiyo, after his release from prison, appeared Wednesday (December 19) before the trial court presided by Chief Magistrate, Huzaifa Machido.