Police in Kwara State detain journalist on orders of polytechnic Rector

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns in no uncertain terms the detention on February 5, 2024, of the Editor-in-chief, and the Managing Editor of Informant247, an online news portal based in Nigeria.

Salihu Ayatullahi and Adisa-Jaji Azeez honored an invitation by the Police and ended up being detained. The journalists’ offense, according to the police, was that they had published a false story about the Rector of the Kwara Polytechnic, Engr. Abdul Jimoh Muhammed. The accusation related to a publication by the two in which they claimed that the Polytechnic rector and two others had commissioned uncompleted projects and understated the institution’s healthy financial status in order to justify his request for state support.

Detained at the Police Headquarters in Illorin, Kwara State, the journalists were dragged before Magistrate Monisola Kamson on February 6 on charges of criminal conspiracy, cyber stalking and injurious falsehood contrary to sections 27(1) B, 24(1)(B) of the cybercrime (prohibition and prevention) act, 2015 and section 393 of the penal code. This follows a complaint from Rector Jimoh Muhammed.

Despite a passionate plea from the prosecutor to have the journalists remanded, the presiding Magistrate, Monisola Kamson, granted the defendants bail in the sum of N250,000 and two sureties each, and adjourned the case to February 13.

The MFWA condemns this retrogressive development of detaining journalist over their critical publications. Even if there is any suspicion of crime in relation to the publication, the journalists serving the public interest by demanding accountability, should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven guilty. They should not be arbitrarily detained by the police to please a powerful public officer.

We are particularly appalled that this arrest had been instigated by the Rector of Kwara Polytechnic, who as a leading academic, is expected to be aligned to the campaign for Nigeria to abandon its archaic and primitive criminal defamation and seditious laws.

The MFWA understands that the two victims of the arrest and detention have also filed a petition against the police at the Federal High Court seeking protection of their fundamental human right to press freedom and liberty. The MFWA will closely follow the Case registered as FHC/IL/C5/14/2024, and believe that the Federal High Court will issue a verdict that will uphold press freedom and the right to personal liberty of the two plaintiff journalists.

We also use this opportunity to once more, call on the Nigerian government to repeal the country’s archaic criminal defamation laws, expedite ongoing efforts to review the Cybercrime law 2015 which has become notoriously repressive to free expression online.

Share this story!

Related Stories

More On Nigeria

Read more from Nigeria