Court declines bail for critics accused of ‘insulting’ governor

Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya
Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya

An Area Court in Pantami area of Gombe metropolis has failed to release on bail two critics of the Gombe State governor, Inuwa Yahaya, who were detained on Thursday for allegedly ”conniving to insult the governor”.

PREMIUM TIMES has reported how Atiku Boza-Boza and Adamu Babale, social critics and members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, were sent to prison after they were arraigned on a work-free day last week.

The arrest and detention of the two politicians echo increasing cases of the muzzling of opposition voices across the country by state governors who often rely on obnoxious laws, as reported by this newspaper.

Messrs Boza-Boza and Babale were sent to prison by Abdullahi Abubakar, the presiding judge of Pantami Area Court, after a brief docking on Thursday, at which they had no legal representation.

The two were not produced in court on Monday and Tuesday as the judge dilly-dallied on excuses, their lawyer, Habu Abdu told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday evening.

He said the two were remanded in prison on the orders of the court following their arraignment on allegations of “conspiracy and intentional insult”.

The police at Pantami Division of the metropolis first arrested and detained Mr Boza-Boza overnight on Wednesday.

An associate of Mr Boza-Boza, Adamu Babale, who went to the police station to secure the bail of his fellow party man was also detained.

The two were then taken before the Area Court in Pantami in handcuffs on Thursday on charges of conspiring to abuse Mr Yahaya.

The police accused the two PDP stalwarts of calling the governor “leader of promise breakers” according to court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

The alleged offence, according to the charge sheet, is contrary to Section 96 & 155 of the Penal Code Law.

Hurried prosecution

The two politicians were docked before the court on Thursday, a day declared as work-free for all courts in the state.

A circular dated February 24, 2020, by the state’s acting chief judge, Muazu Pindiga, had issued a directive on all courts in the state to close down on February 26 and 27.

The holiday, according to the circular seen by PREMIUM TIMES, was to enable “smooth running of the commissioning exercise of the new Court of Appeal Gombe Division”.

But despite the holiday, the two men were taken before the court in what the opposition leaders in the state said was a premeditated action.

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Government writes court

At the court on Tuesday, the judge announced the state government’s communication to the court indicating interest in the matter. The state’s ministry of justice said it will take over the prosecution of the case from the police.

Gombe state commissioner of justice, Zubairu Umar, confirmed the takeover of the case to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.

The new twist contradicts claims by a spokesperson of the Gombe governor, Abdullahi Misilli, who on Sunday denied Mr Yahaya’s involvement in the case.

“There is a security implication to the case. We don’t want it to be mishandled,” Mr Umar said, in justifying the government’s interest in the prosecution.

This is not the first time critics of state governors would be receiving the short end of the law.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the detained publisher of Cross River Watch, Agba Jalingo, eventually accessed the bail granted him on February 13.

Mr Jalingo was arrested on August 22, 2019, and remained incarcerated till the court in Cross River granted his third request for bail after the journalist had been detained for 174 days.

He is facing trial for treason over a report written by the newspaper alleging that Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million belonging to the state.


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