Judge’s absence stalls trial of PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist

Samuel Ogundipe, a reporter at Premium Times
Samuel Ogundipe, a reporter at Premium Times, after his release from the Police Station

A Kubwa Chief Magistrate’s Court in Abuja on Wednesday adjourned the trial of PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Samuel Ogundipe.

The hearing was adjourned until January 30, 2019 after Abdulwahab Mohammed, who is presiding over the case at Kubwa Grade 1 Magistrate’s Court, could not make it to the court. He was said to be attending to an urgent matter at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

The police prosecutor was also not present in court for the proceeding, which had earlier been scheduled for 9:00 a.m. The court clerk said the prosecutor sought adjournment of the hearing because he was attending to another case elsewhere.

The police first arraigned Mr Ogundipe before the court on August 15, a day after was arrested on unfounded allegations he had ‘stolen secret police documents’. The police said the purported offence contradicted the Official Secrets Act, one of the vestiges of a repressive colonial era.

The arrest followed a PREMIUM TIMES’ story authored by Mr Ogundipe on August 9.

The report was based on a the preliminary findings the police submitted to then-Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on the August 7 siege which men of the State Security Service laid to the National Assembly.

Apparently enraged by the story, Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris ordered Mr Ogundipe’s arrest and demanded to know how the reporter obtained the police’s document. Mr Ogundipe was in detention from August 14 until August 17 when he was granted bail by Mr Mohammed.

The development drew widespread condemnation from prominent local and international rights organisations and personalities, all of whom described the development as an illegal intimidation of a journalist and crude display of police power.

PREMIUM TIMES strongly condemned the repressive tactics of the police took against Mr Ogundipe, and asked them to apologise for their action and immediately drop all criminal charges.

The paper’s management also vowed to challenge the illegal detention in a separate lawsuit, largely on the basis that a reporter should never be asked to reveal sources.


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