Court slams ‘barbaric’ Gov. Orji over journalist’s arrest

Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji

A Federal High Court in Lagos, Friday, nullified an arrest warrant against Ebere Wabara, the associate editor of The Sun Newspapers, by an Abia Magistrate Court.

In his ruling, Okon Abang, declared the court’s bench warrant for the journalist as illegal and unconstitutional, and barred the police from further arresting or detaining him or Chuks Onuoha, his colleague.

Mr. Wabara, who is also the Special Assistant, Media, to Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State governor, was forced out of his home in March 2014 by police officers from the Abia State Police Command in the presence of his wife and two kids.

The abduction was purportedly orchestrated by Theodore Orji, the Abia State governor, over some scathing articles penned by the journalist against his administration.

In his ruling on Friday, the judge urged Mr. Orji to be tolerant of criticisms rather than seeking self-help by using state machinery to oppress his critics.

“The governor should realize that we are in a democratic era, which guarantees freedom of speech,” Mr. Abang said. “Journalists have their role to play and whenever anybody feels aggrieved by their action, the way to deal with them has been spelt out by the constitution of the country. The action of the governor is barbaric, archaic, unconstitutional, undemocratic.”

The judge also berated John Ukpai, the Abia State Chief Magistrate, for being overzealous, urging him to refuse to be used as a tool by the executive.

In 2014, police officers from the State Criminal Investigation Department, in Umuahia, invaded Mr. Wabara’s home between 6.30 a.m. and 7.30 a.m.

He was taken, first, to Sholoki Police Station in Aguda, Surulere, then later to Oyingbo Police Station; both in Lagos.

The officers, who reportedly identified themselves to Mr. Wabara, told him that some unnamed person had written a petition against him in Abia State.

Narrating how the abduction happened, Adanna Wabara, said that her husband had gone downstairs to take something from his car.

“Shortly after, I heard him shouting, and I ran downstairs,” Mrs. Wabara said. “I saw between seven and eight men, who said they were policemen. They said he needed to follow them to Umuahia, that there was a petition against him for sedition.

“They took us back into the house, one of them brought out an I.D Card, showing that he was a policeman. They requested to search our bedroom.  They did, and collected my husband’s laptop and telephone.

“I followed as they took him to Sholoki Police Station, but later, I had to take the children to school. By the time I returned, they had moved him away. His phones could not be reached, and he had not eaten.”

Mrs. Wabara said that the incident has “deeply traumatized” her entire family, including their eight and six-year old kids.

A statement signed by Femi Adesina, editor-in-chief of The Sun, condemned the abduction, likening it to the dark, heady days of military dictatorship.

“The Sun Publishing Limited sees the abduction of Mr Wabara obviously on the orders of the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr Adamu Ibrahim, and perhaps under the further instruction of the state governor, Chief T. A. Orji, as a throwback to the dark days of military dictatorship, when might was right, and the strong trampled on the weak,” Mr. Adesina said in the statement.

“It is unconscionable, repressive and flies in the face of all that is decent and civil. It has all the trappings of autocracy, rather than democracy.

“If Mr Wabara infringed any law, we would have expected the police to invite him to answer questions, and then charge him to court.  The approach that has been adopted is Gestapo-like, and unbecoming of those who instigated it.

“Those entrusted with the upholding of the law are not expected to trample on others. This is what the policemen from Abia State have done, and it runs contrary to the code of conduct for policemen as espoused by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar,” Mr. Adesina added.

The Sun said that when it contacted the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police, he made efforts to resolve the matter, urging that Mr. Wabara’s statement be taken in Lagos, and that he be given the opportunity to thereafter report in Umuahia.

“But apparently, the invaders from Abia had another design, obviously to keep him in detention over the weekend.  It is simply despicable,” Mr. Adesina added.

Mr. Wabara was taken to Umuahia in handcuffs but was released the next day, an ordeal which landed him in hospital.

His ill health, however, did not deter the police from slamming him with 10-count charge bordering on seditious publications against Mr. Orji.

Due to his absence in court, the police secured a bench warrant against him and his surety, Mr. Onuoha, The Sun’s Correspondent in Umuahia.

Messrs Wabara and Onuoha then instituted a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Inspector General of Police (IGP); Abia State Chief Magistrate, Mr. Ukpai; and the Attorney General of Abia State, Umeh Kalu.

In the trial, the applicants’ counsel, the late Bamidele Aturu, prayed the court to grant all the reliefs sought by his clients in the interest of justice.

He urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection filed by the respondents on the issue of jurisdiction and look at the substance of the suit.

The Attorney General of Abia State, Mr. Kalu, submitted that the issue of jurisdiction was very crucial in order for the court to determine whether it could entertain the suit or not, and prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.

However, the trial judge, while giving his verdict on the issues canvassed by both parties, ruled as follow:

The court held that on the issue of jurisdiction, it was the applicant’s claim that determined whether a court has jurisdiction or not and in the case of the applicants, both the principal relief and the consequence relief bordered on fundamental rights, which court has jurisdiction on.

It held that both State High Court and Federal High Court have concurrent power to entertain fundamental right suit.

On the issue of territorial jurisdiction, the court held that “it was not in dispute that the first applicant was arrested in Lagos before taken to Abia state, and with that fact, both Lagos and Abia Division of the court have jurisdiction to entertain the suit.”

On the substantive suit, the court held that the magistrate erred in law by issuing bench warrant against the applicants.

The court held that filing a charge against a person before a court did not constitute arraignment.

Justice Abang said the applicants were never arraigned before the Magistrate, which means they were not before the court and the court did not has jurisdiction to issue bench warrant against them.

The trial judge said his court would not have had jurisdiction in the matter if the applicants had been arraigned before the Magistrate but they were not.

The court submitted that the Magistrate assumed jurisdiction in a matter that was not before him and even if the applicants were before the court their offence was no longer in existence because the era of colonialism was over.

The court granted the reliefs sought by the applicants and also awarded cost against the applicants.

After the judgment, the applicant’s counsel, John Nwokwu, in his remark before the court dedicated the victory to his late principal, Mr. Aturu.

 


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  • Spoken word

    PDP politicians always taking the law into their hands.

  • Jack

    PDP politicians does not believe in rule of law but violence

  • Arabakpura

    He will soon return to Okija shrine!

  • Lemmuel Odjay

    No, Judge Okon Abang. I know you are saying this because you are far from and beyond the reach of Theodore Orji, a PDP governor at that. I thought it was rather harsh of you to have described him as 1: Barbaric as in being cruel, a brute, coarse, rude and uncivilized; like minded as those characters in Conan the Barbarian. 2: In describing Theodore as Archaic, could you have meant he is ancient and a Methuselah reincarnate? 3: How dare you describe Governor Orji’s acts as UNCONSTITUTIONAL? Are you implying that he is an illiterate who cannot read nor understand his bible which is the Constitution of the “FEDERAL” Republic of Nigeria? Or could he have been goaded on by the prevalent climate of impunity that has infected the Nigerian society? Theodore demands a second hearing to enable you explain this further. 4: And finally this word UNDEMOCRATIC which you have made use of to target a whole “democratically-elected” Governor of Abia State! Did you mean that because in his pictures he is always stern-faced then it could be safe to assume that he is Stalin himself? Believing in or providing equal justice and privileges for all except Ebere Wabara and Chuks Onuoha whose only sin was criticizing Stalin sorry, Orji, describes him (Orji) adequately as an unrepentant jack-boot who-are-you-re character. Ours is a democracy where servants have become masters by reneging on the oath they willingly swore to remain servants, nothing but servants. Are we then surprised that it’s not working here? Show me the democrats, for Governor Orji of Abia State is by definition not one.

    • CuriousScholar

      He was not described as barbaric, archaic, brute etc. The judge stated his ACTIONS were barbaric, archaic, unconstitutional and undemocratic. Secondly what he did was indeed unconstitutional. You can not in any way harass someone for expressing his views, especially when it his job to do so.

      • Lemmuel Odjay

        I thought that because John Mikel Obi plays football very well, even though he is toying with the prospects of becoming a music maestro, that makes him out as a footballer, for example… Someone who dictates (ACTION) is a dictator, no?

  • halima

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  • Ugochukwu Ezenwa Oon

    The fact is that governor t a orji never order the arrest of mr Wabara

  • Ugo Eche

    Soo untrue. At no point did Gov. T.A Orji order his arrest.

  • pinky minaj

    It was like a joke when a video showing clips of General Buhari being conveyed to a waiting British Police Armor Criminal Carrier {ACC} to be whisked off, was shared from the Media and Publicity page of the PDPPCO on facebook. Though its source is yet unknown. In the video as attached here, General Buhari was accompanied by His Personal Lawyer, His Personal Doctor and 2 leaders (Ameachi and some other unknown leader) of the APC into the waiting van admits tight security.

    Details of eye witnesses in the Chatham House events informed fact-seeking Nigerians that the General and his entourage had arrived the venue in a Limousine. Though some APC apologist had made claims that the General arrived in a London taxi which has been dispelled as the regular falsehood of the APC. On inquiries from some Nigerians in the UK on why a Nigerian former General and currently a Presidential was whisked away by the police, after the widely publicized event that was shaded in secrecy led to some revelations.

    REVELATIONS WERE AS FOLLOWS
    The General was actually whisked off by a British arm of the Interpol (International Police) on an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court of The Hague.

    Further revelations showed that a Criminal Case against Humanity, filed in the by one Professor GORAN SLUITER, an international Law Professor of the University Amsterdam, sometime in the first week of February will be due for hearing on the second week of April. The ICC took the advantage of raising an arrest warrant to secretly arrest the General and be kept until the court hearing. Reasons was that in an unlikely event that the opposition party were to win the March 28th elections, it would be difficult to arrest the arrest the General to face his charges.

    General Buhari will be standing trial for his crimes against humanity where over 800 Nigerian youths were killed during the post-election crisis in 2011, and another 65,000 persons displaced. The family of the slain have already given their evidence and are seeking justice for the death of the family members. Joint as co- plaintiffs in the case are youths that were dismembered and handicapped during the post-election crisis. Also as evidence are recordings of General Buhari publicly inciting his followers to kill all those that tried to take away their votes. In another evidence, are voice recordings of Buhari where he told some members of the press that the youths that died, deserved to die.

    Findings revealed that the General was actually kept in the custody of the police in an undisclosed location for four days while members of the opposition rallied round for his bail. As we speak, some members has been held as surety for the General with some advance bonds have been made by his party.
    Part of the conspiracy revealed that the party hierarchy are not really bothered about what happens to Buhari as the Vice Presidential candidate will automatically stand in as President in an unlikely event that the APC wins the elections.

    It is also revealed that as at when the Interpol arrived the venue, The APC Leaders like Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rotimi Ameachi had quietly scampered for safety in a like events that they would be asked to accompany the General. They were not sure what the offences were. Ameachi was practically forced to join them.. he was said to have told the Police to allow him walk in alone. Notice a policeman pushing him in? Tinubu was no where to be found till the departure of the Van.

  • Agu

    Orji is a big coward and deserve to be in jail rather than being a governor. All Abians are praying for his downfall.

  • Kokoman

    Similar thing happened in Rivers State under Amaechi Government. I wonder what the then Prime Minister would have done. Call for public emergency? Jonathan government did it could but short of public emergency. The NASS, if may recall, shutdown the state house of assembly. Or was it, started legislating from Abuja; or different groups of house members from different sites. Everything was foggy at the time.

  • Funso Famuyiwa

    Mr. Teniola, I appreciate your enlivening our lives and educating many Nigerians about these Historical Events that are often misrepresented to suit individual political or ethnic inclinations. But Facts are sacred but Opinions are free. And there is no place for “Alternative Facts” either.
    But something is amiss in this piece. I am sure, Awo’s rebuttal of Balewa’s allegations did not just stop abruptly as your piece would suggest. Perhaps space was a constraint. But I am confident that he went further and must have concluded on a very definitive, unambiguous and forceful note. Please provide this if you have it.

  • Iskacountryman

    ebubedike…nyamiris, always causing trouble…anywhere thy go…

  • Adewale

    Enemies outside and within were the cause of the pre-planned uproar in the house of parliament at that time. Chief Akintola sit-tight syndrome coupled with federal might of NPC/NCNC caused the fight instigated by his stooges in the house (Oke from Ogbomosho Constituency and Ebubedike of Badagry Constituency). The abuse of power started in Nigeria since the first republic when Balewa and Azikiwe declared state of emergency in the then western house. The quest by Hausas/Ibos to dominate western region actually led to the collapse of regional government in Nigeria. This was actualised by Aguiyi Ironsi government that metamorphosed into unitary government being practiced till date. The two tribes, Hausa and Ibos are power hungry everytime; this accounts for the reason why there’s agitation always from them whenever they are not in government. When both tribes run government in the first and second Republic, there was no agitation from any of them, third Republic was aborted by Maradona, while fourth Republic ongoing without Igbos in the Nos.1&2 positions has seriously brought about unending agitations and choruses of marginalization from them.