The Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja, on Friday, ordered the Nigeria Police to immediately release Chinonso Uba, a journalist who was arrested in Imo State, South-east Nigeria.
Mr Uba, otherwise known as Nonso Nkwa, was whisked away on 27 July by the police, after he finished anchoring his morning programme on Ozisa FM, a radio station in Owerri, the state capital.
The operatives came from the Criminal Investigation Department of the Force Headquarters Abuja where they detained the journalist.
The Commissioner for Information in Imo State, Declan Emelumba, on 28 July, announced that the journalist was arrested for allegedly defaming the state governor, Hope Uzodinma.
Mr Emelumba claimed that the journalist alleged that Mr Uzodinma and former Niger Delta militant leader, Asari Dokubo, were behind killings and insecurity in the state.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists, Imo State Chapter, would later fault his arrest and demand his immediate release.
The group said the state government, rather than arrest, ought to have sued the journalist if they were convinced that he defamed the governor.
Charges against the journalist
The police, after three weeks, arraigned the journalist at a Federal High Court in Abuja on two-count charge, on Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES reliably gathered.
Mr Uba was charged for allegedly making a false and defamatory video post on social media in June accusing Messrs Uzodinma and Dokubo of killing 100 youth and also burning houses in Imo with the intention to instigate residents of the state and Igbos against the governor.
The police told the court that the offence was contrary and punishable under Section 24 (1) (B) of the Cyber Crime Prohibition Act.
The journalist was also charged for allegedly making the social media post with the intention to bully, threaten or harass Mr Uzodinma over the accusation that the governor and Mr Dokubo carried out the killings.
The police also said the offence contravened Section 24 (2) (A) and punishable under Section 24 (2) (C) of the same Act.
The journalist pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The court declined the journalist’s bail application and adjourned the hearing until September, next month.
Meanwhile, the journalist had earlier, on 8 August, filed an ex parte application at the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, Abuja against the Inspector-General of Police (Respondent) demanding his release from detention.
In the ex parte motion marked M/7128/2023, Mr Uba asked the court to declare that the various acts of torture, harassment, assault, intimidation and inhuman treatment meted on him by the police (Respondent) through the instigation of Governor Uzodinma was unconstitutional and constitute a violation of his rights in line with Section 34 (1) of the Constitution.
The journalist also asked the court to declare that his arrest and detention at the facility of police at Area Command Maitama since 27 July at the instance of the governor, the complainant, was illegal and a violation of his fundamental human rights.
He sought for an order of the court granting him bail and to be released forthwith from the police detention as well as an order directing the police to produce him before the court in the event of their failure to release him within 24 hours.
He further asked the court to grant an order of perpetual injunction restraining the police or their representatives from further harassing, intimidating, arresting and detaining him on the same subject matter.
After listening to P.A.N. Ejiafor and C.C. Okafor, counsels to Mr Ubah, the judge, E. Okpe, granted all the prayers of the journalist, according to a court document obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
The court document, titled ‘Court Order,’ was dated 18 August 2023.
Despite the court order, checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that Mr Uba had yet to be released as of Saturday evening – more than 24 hours after the order.
Force spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, did not respond to calls seeking his comments.