Fighting impunity: Lawyers file suit to demand the release of arbitrarily detained journalist Olamilekan Hammed

Lawyers for Olamilekan Hammed, publisher of the EaglesForeSight news website, have filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta Division, for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the journalist who has been detained since May 13.

Hammed was arrested after his media platform republished a report about the “alleged criminal records” of Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun. The article, originally published by the privately-owned Peoples Gazette news website, alleged that the Nigerian Governor was arrested for credit card fraud and forgery in the United States in 1986.

After republishing the article, the State Security Services (SSS) invited Hammed for questioning and detained him when he honoured the invitation on May 13. He has since been in detention at the state police headquarters. The authorities had earlier (April 29) forced the journalist to delete the article from the EaglesForeSight website and publicly apologise to the governor.

On May 23, 2022, the journalist’s lawyer issued a statement on his Facebook page announcing the commencement of legal proceedings to enforce the rights of journalist.

“We have filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta Division, for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of our client, Mr. Olamilekan Hammed Bashiru who was arbitrarily arrested on the 13th of May, 2022 and detained over a publication exposing the dirty criminal past of the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun,” Festus Ogun, lawyer of Olamilekan Hammed, said.

The lawyer lamented that Hammed “was neither granted bail, released nor charged to court for any offence despite all efforts by counsel.”

In a chat with the MFWA, Lawyer Festus Ogun confirmed thus: “Yes, we have filed a fundamental rights action at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta, Ogun State. Subsequently,  he was hurriedly charged to court by the authorities a few days later. We applied for his bail and same was vehemently opposed by the prosecutor. The trial judge has however fixed the 21st of June, 2022 for ruling on his bail.

“He was in court on Tuesday [June 7] where I met him. I can confirm he’s in high spirits. He has been remanded in prison custody pending his bail,” Lawyer Ogun confirmed.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the legal action taken by the lawyers of Hammed to get him out of detention. We reiterate our condemnation of his arbitrary arrest as an attack on press freedom and deplore the apparent complicity of the court in the continuing abuse of the journalist’s rights. The MFWA urges the authorities to ensure that the journalist is not tortured and demands his immediate release.

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