Court Strikes Out Case Against Insider Weekly
The Lagos Magistrate Court sitting in Yaba on April 28, 2004 struck out
the case of conspiracy, sedition, and criminal defamation preferred
against three editors of Insider Weekly Magazine: Osa Director,
Chuks Onudinjo and Mrs. Janet Mba, by the Lagos State Commissioner of
Police for lack of diligent prosecution.
The editors were charged to
magistrate court two, Yaba on November 26, 2003 following their arrest on
November 24, 2003.
The editors, ‘and others
at large’, were accused of conspiring to effect an unlawful purpose, to
wit, the publication of a seditious matter against the Vice President
Atiku Abubakar and the National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Muhammed
Gusua, Rtd., and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 518
(6) of the criminal code, Cap. 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria,
They were also accused
of publishing a seditious publication and thereby committed an offence
punishable under Section 51 (1) (C) of the criminal Code, Cap. 77, Laws of
the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
The third count stated
that they punished a defamatory matter in the form of a Magazine against
the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency,
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the National Security Adviser, General Aliyu
Mohammed Gusau, Rtd., knowing same to be false and thereby committed an
offence punishable Section 375 of the Criminal Code, Cap. 77, Laws of the
Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
At the initial hearing
on November 26, 2003, Mrs. Florence Sam-Iroye, MRA’s Legal officer and
three other lawyers: Mr. Henry Anikwem, Mr. Festus Keyamo, and Mr. Tony
Omighomi appeared for the editors while Mr. Emmanuel Jackson appeared for
the prosecutor: state CID, Panti-Yaba. They were granted bail in the sum
of N200,000 and one responsible person standing as a surety to each of
them. The matter was adjourned to January 12.
At the January 12
sitting, the matter was adjourned to of March 3 for further mention due to
the absence of Prosecution Counsel.
On March 3, the case was
further adjourned to March 15. The prosecution witnesses were again not
in court and the judge threatened to strike out the matter if the
witnesses failed to appear in court on the next adjourned date and
thereafter further adjourned to April 28.
Again, on April 28 the
witnesses, together with their counsel, Mr. Jackson were not in court. The
counsel to the editors therefore argued that the matter be struck out for
lack of diligent prosecution.
The Judge accordingly
struck out the matter.
The editors were
arrested on November 24, 2003 at the magazine’s premises on Acme Road in
Agidimgbi area of Ikeja in Lagos following the publication, in Insider
Weekly Magazine of No. 47 of November 24, 2003 of a story titled
Aso Rock’s oil Bunkering Scandal: Atiku, Gusau Linked – 8 Arrested ships
To Be Destroyed. The publication indicted the Vice President, Alhaji
Atiku Abubakar and the National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Mohammed
Government Names Board Members For Its
Media Organs, MRA T o Withdraw Suits
The Federal Government has succumbed to pressures to constitute the boards
of its parastatals. On November 10, 2000, it announced the constitution of
the boards of 137 parastatals including those of government-owed
electronic media and media regulatory agencies.
The media and media
related organisations are the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC),
Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Voice of Nigeria (VON), News Agency
of Nigeria (NAN), Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Federal
Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN).
The constitution of the
boards came on the heels of a suit filed by Media Rights Agenda (MRA),
asking the court to compel the Federal Government to constitute the boards
in line with the law that each of the organisations be managed and
supervised by a duly constituted board. MRA went to court after it had
exhausted every available avenue to get the government to comply with the
statutory provisions setting up the organisations and agencies.
Reacting to the new
development, Mr. Maxwell Kadiri, legal officer at MRA said the
organisation would have to withdraw the case as it has been overtaken by
MRA had in five separate
letters dated January 18, 19, 20 and 21, 2000, addressed to President
Olusegun Obasanjo and copied the then Information Minister, Chief Dapo
Sarumi, Justice Minister, then Chief Kanu Agabi; and Minister for
Communications, Alhaji Mohammed Arzika, urged the President to take urgent
steps to constitute the Governing Boards of the agencies concerned.
MRA similarly wrote to
the chief executives of the organisations concerned informing them of its
moves to compel the Federal Government to obey the relevant laws setting
up the organisations by constituting without delay, the boards of
MRA said it was bothered
that independence and objectivity stand to suffer in government-owed
electronic media and media regulatory agencies, whose administration is
left in the hands of individuals who function as sole administrators.
MRA contended that
the present situation whereby each of these organisations is run by a
Director-General or Managing Director appointed by the President in the
absence of a duly constituted board as provided for by law is illegal, as
it violates the mandatory provisions of the laws which established each of
them and, as well, undermine their independence and outlook.
The Applicants in the
suit are the incorporated trustees of Media Rights Agenda; Tive Denedo,
the organisations Director of Campaigns; Adeola Ademola, the
organisation's Legal Officer and Osaro Odemwingie, MRA's Publications
The respondents are the
President of the Federation of Nigeria, the Minister of Information and
the Attorney General of the Federation.
Specifically, MRA had in
the letters expressed concern over the situation whereby the various
government-owed media organisations and regulating agencies are being run
by directors- general in the absence of properly constituted governing
boards as provided for in the enabling legislations. This, MRA says, is
The letters noted that
while using the medium to draw the President's attention to these great
lapses, it humbly requests the President to take urgent steps to perform
his statutory function and ensure compliance with the provisions of the
But MRA gave a warning
that in the event that it does not hear from the President within two
weeks, it would assume that he does not intend to give effect to clear
provisions of the laws and would, therefore, have no other choice than to
approach the courts on these issues. The failure of government to comply
with the laws, therefore, left MRA with the only option of heading for the
Through a motion ex-parte
MRA specifically sought an order of the Court to compel the federal
government to forthwith constitute the boards of the affected
organisations. (see Media Rights Monitor Vol. 5. No. 4 for April
Stating the grounds for
the application, MRA observed that the non-compliance with the laws
establishing the organisations undermines their overall performance
especially in balancing the interests of every section that ought, by
Legal requirements, to be represented in the boards.
MRA noted that the
boards of the commissions and corporations are convergence of certain
persons, who are collectively vested with corporate personality by law and
their positions should not be subsumed by an individual in the capacity of
a Director General or Managing Director.
In a 12-point affidavit
in support of the motion, deposed to by Miss Adeola Ademola, MRA observed
that the non-compliance with the laws would make it impossible for the
organisations to meet the broad policy objectives for which they were
MRA argued that the
non-compliance is in effect an admission that all these organisations
cease to exist save for the office of the Executive Vice Chairman of the
NCC, the office of the Director-General of the NBC, the office of
Director-General of VON, the office of the Director-General of NTA, the
office of Managing Director of NAN and the office of the Director-General
MRA complained that the
de-facto non-existence of these organisations is a sign of unfavourable
effects in their management, which will translate into low quality
programmes and policies.
Even while the
Federal Government was yet to file its response to the suit, VON and FRCN
in separate letters to MRA said they could not understand the concern of
MRA on the flouting of relevant laws by government and, therefore, advised
MRA to preserve its energies and resources for more worthy causes.
VON, in the letter
signed by its secretary/ legal adviser, Mr. Sola Tijani noted that: "We
have gone through your letter without seeing your relevance within the
contemplation of VON's Enabling Decree and the issue raised by you. You
have also not sufficiently articulated the nature of your interest in VON
whether it is direct, legal or social."
"Frankly speaking," the
letter continued, "one would have expected (the type of) your organisation
to concentrate on issues bordering on press freedom, ethical practice in
Journalism etc as it affects the media organisations and staff.
Furthermore, your letter did not suggest that VON is failing in these
areas. Surprisingly, you embarked on frivolous issue which definitely
would amount to hopeless waste of judicial time."
VON, however, advised
MRA to "endeavour to dissipate your resources and energy on noble
objectives of which you will receive VON co-operation and support instead
of frivolous cases like the one contained in your letter."
The letter to MRA by
FRCN expressed similar sentiments. In the letter signed by M. M. Kurama
for the director general, the organisation said it received MRA's letter
"threatening to drag the corporation to court for an alleged
non-compliance with the FRCN Act."
FRCN noted in the letter
that: "After careful analysis of the contents of your letter and the law
in question, we regret to inform you that the Corporation is unable to see
the justification, both legal and moral, of your threatened action. While
the Corporation appreciates your efforts of promoting media freedom and
high standards of ethical practice in Journalism practice in Nigeria, your
letter did not suggest that the Corporation had infringed on that freedom
or, in any way, lowered the standards of Journalism practice in its
FRCN, therefore, advised
MRA against the institution of "frivolous cases based on speculative facts
and serving no interest of justice."
But contrary to the
claims of VON and FRCN, MRA cleared the first legal hurdle in its bid to
compel the Federal Government to constitute governing boards for the
affected media establishments and media regulatory agencies when in
separate proceedings, the Federal High Court in Abuja in May granted it
leave in five of the suits to apply for mandatory orders to compel the
Government to constitute the governing boards of the NBC and the media
establishments. The affected media establishments are the NTA, the FRCN,
NAN and VON.
Two judges of the
Federal High Court, Justice Chukwura Nnamani and Justice M.A. Edet granted
MRA's applications for leave to apply for an order of mandamus to compel
President Olusegun Obasanjo and other relevant Government officials to
constitute the governing bodies of the organizations in accordance with
the laws establishing them.
Arguing the motions, Mr.
Kadiri had noted that the President and the Information Minister were
under a public and statutory duty to constitute the governing bodies of
the different establishments in accordance with the various laws
establishing them and outlining their mode of management. (see Media
Rights Monitor Vol. 5. No. 6 for June 2000.)
After hearing Mr.
Kadiri's arguments in each of the cases, Justice Nnamani issued an order
granting leave to MRA to apply to the court for an order of mandamus to
compel the President and the Information Minister to constitute the
governing boards for the NBC, NAN, and VON. He directed that the order
and other court processes in the suits be served on the President, the
Information Minister and the Attorney General of the Federation within six
The two other suits over
the governing boards of the NTA and the FRCN were argued by Mrs. Ese
Acholonu, MRA's Legal Officer, before Justice Edet.
Arguing the motions,
Mrs. Acholonu expressed concerns similar to those raised by Mr. Kadiri in
the cases of the NBC, NAN and VON.
After hearing Mrs.
Acholonu's arguments in each of the cases, Justice Edet granted MRA leave
to apply to the court for an order of mandamus to compel the Federal
Executive Council, the President and the Information Minister to
constitute the governing boards of the establishments. He also directed
that the order of the court and all other processes in the suit meant for
all the government officials named as respondents be served on the
Attorney-General of the Federation.
While the suit was on,
Alhaji Arzika, in an unrelated but similar case, announced on March 27 in
Abuja that the Federal Government has constituted a nine-man board of
directors for the NCC, which is under his ministry. It has as its chairman
Alhaji Ahmed Joda. Announcing the constitution of the board at a press
conference, Alhaji Arzika expressed the hope that the NCC board would
instill confidence in potential local and foreign investors in the
Other members of the
board are Mr. Emmanuel Ogba, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, Mr. Isaiah Mohammed
and Mr. Shoal Taylor.
The rest are Mrs.
Adejaji, chief Patrick Sunday Kentebe, Mr. Augustine Otiji, Mr. Tunde
Oyeyipo and Mr. Ernest Ndukwe.
While revealing MRA's
intention to withdraw the suit given the present position, Mr. Kadiri in
an interview with Media Rights Monitor expressed regret that the legal
tussle that would have established the position of the law on the legality
or otherwise of government's action in appointing directors general for
the parastatals concerned without the necessary boards as provided for in
law, has been aborted.
According to him, “it
might well have been necessary to establish the legality or otherwise of
government’s failure to constitute the boards as required by the various
Declaration Of Assets: FG, Code Of Conduct
Bureau Deny Violation Of Constitution
The Federal Government and Code of
Conduct Bureau on November 2, 1999, through a counter-affidavit deposed to
by Alhaji Bisiriyu Onisarotu, the Bureau’s representative, at the Federal
High Court in Lagos, denied that there have been major violations of
provisions of the 1999 constitution relating to declaration of assets by
public office holders. The Bureau denied that a number of executive and
legislative public office holders assumed offices at the inception of the
Fourth Republic without submitting their declaration of assets to the
Bureau as stipulated in the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
The denials were in
response to a suit instituted against the Bureau and the Federal
Government on August 30, 1999 by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and its
Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo. In the suit, the plaintiffs sought to
compel the Bureau to release to them, the declaration of assets made by 40
public officers. These officers are the President, the Vice President, the
Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 36
MRA contended in the
suit that the true interpretation and effect of Section 3(C) of part 1, of
the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution is that every Nigerian citizen
has an uninhibited right of access to assets declarations made by public
officers. It added that the refusal of the Code of Conduct Bureau to allow
it access to the assets declarations made by the 40 named public officers
In his seven-point
counter-affidavit, Alhaji Onisarotu said that the Bureau’s legal adviser,
Mr. J. J. Ndupu, had informed him, that both the government and the Bureau
have denied MRA’s allegations of major violations of the provisions of the
Code of Conduct for Public Officers. He said the allegation that a number
of executive and legislative public office holders assumed their various
offices without submitting declarations of their assets to the Bureau was
He insisted that the
onus was on Media Rights Agenda to prove these allegations. He further
averred that the government and the Bureau had also denied MRA’s claim
that the Bureau did not refute its allegations or allay the concerns
expressed by MRA over the violations of the constitutional provisions.
In an earlier affidavit
deposed to by Mr. Ojo, MRA had said that it wrote to the Bureau on June
21, 1999, to express concerns over the violations of the Constitutional
provisions. It added that it requested that it be allowed to inspect
copies of the assets declaration submitted by these public officers.
Mr. Ojo said that in its
response dated July 5, 1999, the Bureau did not refute or allay the
concerns expressed by MRA. He said the Bureau merely stated that the
National Assembly was yet to prescribe terms and conditions to give effect
to the enforcement of the provisions of paragraph 3 (C) of Part 1 of the
Third Schedule to the Constitution.
Responding to MRA’s
claims, Onisarotu said that: “The Code of Conduct Bureau did not refuse
the request made by the plaintiffs to be allowed to inspect the assets
declarations in its possession.” What the Bureau said, according to
Onisarotu was “… you are, therefore, advised to await the prescription of
such terms and conditions as the Assembly may deem fit to make for that
purpose.” He also denied MRA’s contention that a dispute has arisen
between it and the Code of Conduct Bureau, which should be resolved on the
basis of MRA’s originating summons.
MRA went to court
following the refusal by the Bureau to release to it assets declarations
by these forty public officers. MRA had by a letter to the Bureau on June
21,1999 addressed to the Bureau Chairman, Justice Bashir Sambo,
expressed concern that some public officers may have violated certain
sections of the Constitution by not publicly declaring their assets. It,
therefore, asked the Bureau to make available to it information pertaining
to declaration of assets by the public officers to enable MRA “assess the
level of compliance with the Constitutional provisions relating to
declaration of assets and liabilities by public officers.”
MRA’s concern arose out
of the fear that there were widespread violations of Constitutional
provisions by all tiers of government despite President Obasanjo’s vow to
tackle the problem of corruption headlong. It pointed out in its letter
that “provisions designed to ensure accountability among public officers
appeared to be the most flouted sections of the Constitution.”
But the Bureau refused
to give the requested information saying that the National Assembly was
yet to prescribe the terms and conditions to give effect to the exercise
and enforcement of the Constitutional provisions asking MRA to wait
pending the time the National Assembly would prescribe the terms.
Justice Gbolahan Jinadu
fixed further hearing in the suit for February 16, 2000.
Court Awards Journalist
N300,000 For Assault, Unlawful Detention
An Ikeja High Court in Lagos has awarded the Assistant News Editor of
The Punch newspaper, Mr. Adewale Adeoye, the sum of N300,000 as
damages for the violation of his fundamental rights when he was illegally
arrested, detained and assaulted by the Police in June
Ruling on Tuesday, October 26, 1999 in a suit filed on his behalf by Media
Rights Agenda (MRA), Justice Afolabi Adeyinka upheld Adeoye’s claim that
the assault on him by the Police and his detention on June 25 constituted
a breach of his fundamental rights as guaranteed by Sections 33, 34, and
41 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 3(2), 4, 5, 6 and 12(1) and (6)
of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Mr. Adeoye, who is also the Chairman of Journalists for Democratic Rights
(JODER), a non-governmental organization, along with 16 other innocent
persons, was illegally arrested on July 25, 1999, severely beaten and
detained by men of the Lagos State anti-robbery team, Rapid Response Squad
(RRS) at Ogudu Police Station. He was detained overnight up till late
hours of the following day without food, water, or any medical attention
given to him for the lacerations he sustained when one of the policemen
hit him, pistol-in-hand, on his ear.
At the end of his ordeal, his shoe and a substantial part of the money he
kept with the policeman at the counter could not be accounted for. (see
Media Rights Monitor, Vol. 4 Nos. 7and
MRA’s Legal Officer, Mrs. Ikhiwi Omonkhua, filed a suit at the Ikeja High
Court on his behalf challenging the action of the security agents as a
violation of his constitutional rights to personal liberty, security of
his person, and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment and claiming
N30 million against the Police as general and aggravated damages.
In a motion exparte brought
pursuant to order 1 rule 2 (1) and (3) of the fundamental rights
enforcement procedure rules 1979 and the inherent jurisdiction of the
honourable court, Adeoye applied for the following reliefs:
A declaration that the assault on him by the respondents, their servants,
officers, agents and / or privies constituted a breach of his fundamental
human rights and amounted to gross violation of his right to life, right
to dignity of human person, personal liberty and security of person
guaranteed under sections 33, 34 and 41 of the Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and Articles 5 and 6 of the African
Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act
Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990; and,
A declaration that the arrest without a warrant for an offence not in the
law or the Constitution, the dehumanising torture, inhuman and degrading
treatment meted to him is in breach his fundamental human rights.
Named as defendants in the suit were the Attorney-General of Lagos State,
the State’s Commissioner of Police; the Ogudu Police Station in Lagos; the
Rapid Response Squad, and Officer Olaniyan of the Ogudu Police
Following the persistent failure of the Police to appear in court to
defend the suit, Justice Adeyinka granted Mrs. Omonkhua’s request that she
should be allowed to argue the case of Mr. Adeoye on its
She referred the court to a 21-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr.
Adeoye in support of the motion to enforce his fundamental rights and
argued that the series of events narrated in the affidavit establish that
Mr. Adeoye’s rights guaranteed by both the 1999 Constitution and the
African Charter had been violated.
She argued that no matter
how short the detention was, once the court finds that it was unjustified,
it would amount to a violation of Mr. Adeoye’s fundamental rights.
Mrs. Omonkhua noted that the Police had not contradicted the allegations
and so, the court must accept the facts as proved and accordingly act on
them. She therefore asked the court to make the declarations and orders
sought by Mr. Adeoye in the suit.
In his ruling, Justice Adeyinka declared that the assault on Mr. Adeoye by
the security agents constituted a breach on his fundamental human rights
as it amounted to a gross violation of his rights to life, dignity of
human person, personal liberty and security of his person guaranteed under
Sections 33, 34 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution as well as Articles 5 and
6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and
Enforcement) Act, Cap 10. Laws of the Federation of Nigeria
He also declared that Mr. Adeoye’s arbitrary arrest and detention without
a warrant and for an offence not stated in law or in the Constitution
constituted a breach of his fundamental rights guaranteed under Sections
34, 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 3(2), 4, 5, 6, and
12(1) of the African Charter.
The judge held that the inhuman and degrading treatment meted out to Mr.
Adeoye by the Police was a violation of his fundamental rights guaranteed
under Section 34, of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 12(1) and 5 of the
He ordered the Police to publicly apologize to Mr. Adeoye for the
violation of his fundamental rights in accordance with Section 35(6) of
the 1999 Constitution and awarded him damages of
A wave of excitement trailed the ruling with Mr. Adeoye describing it as
“a momentous victory for democracy and the rule of law over brute force.”