Following their illegal detention by the Bauchi State Police Command, Haruna Mohammed, the publisher of WikkiTimes and Kamal Idris, a reporter with the digital platform have been released on bail by a Magistrate court presided over by Baba Sekoni Abdulfathi.
Their illegal detention was tied to a story WikkiTimes published on May 18, 2022, detailing how Hussaini Musa Gwaba, the state’s APC Chairman received threats before he was found dead in a hotel.
While the circumstances of his death remain a mystery, insiders told this paper that Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, a federal lawmaker in the state, was not happy with the emergence of Gwaba as the party’s Chairman.
In response to the story, the lawmaker petitioned WikkiTimes through Bauchi State Police Command. Subsequently, the police invited the publisher of the platform, Mohammed, to respond to the petition.
Mohammed and Kamal were first detained by the police on Monday after honouring the invitation from the command’s Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (CID). They would be later released after spending 10 hours in custody.
On Tuesday, they were asked to report to the command for further investigation. After grilling them for a while, they were charged to Magistrate court 1 in Bauchi State on three count-charges bordering on cyber stalking, criminal conspiracy and defamation of character.
Following the outcry by freedom organisations and many newspapers in the country including the intervention of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the state through its Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Sadiq Abubakar Abdulhamid, took over the case from the police prosecutors led by one Biliyaminu, an Investigating Police Officer (IPO).
The journalists were released on N100,000 bail each person with a surety, according to Barrister Idris Gambo, the defence counsel to the accused.
“The police took the matter to court yesterday, and the First Information Report they took them to court with are criminal conspiracy, defamation of character and cyberstalking contrary to section 24 Cyber Crime Prohibitions Act,” said Barrister Gambo.
“Based on that, there was an attempt by the state yesterday to take over the matter. When the state approached the magistrate, the magistrate said considering the time the matter was brought, which was around 4pm, they (defendants) should take them and remand them in police custody and adjourned the matter till today.”
According to the defense counsel, section 211 of the 1999 constitution as amended, provided the state counsel amongst others, the power to take over any proceeding before any court in Nigeria as well as the power to take over any criminal proceeding pending before any court of law to continue or discontinue such criminal procedure.
“The constitution only gave the power to the attorney general to consider the public interest and interest of justice and that of the society in doing whatever he was going to do. We did not object and the court also ruled in that regard,” Barrister Gambo said.
He added: “One of the offenses listed on the FIR was struck out — that is, cyber stalking — and we did not object to that as the court is a court of summary jurisdiction.”
However, the offense of character defamation and criminal conspiracy were read to the accused persons and “they pleaded not guilty. We applied for their bail as their counsel and it was granted and the matter was adjourned till July 25,” the lawyer said.