Posted by By GODWIN TSA, Abuja on
The two journalists standing trial on a six-count charge of seditious publication, Messrs Gbenga Aruleba of the African Independent Television.....
The two journalists standing trial on a six-count charge of seditious publication, Messrs Gbenga Aruleba of the African Independent Television (AIT) and Rotimi Durojaiye of Daily Independent newspaper are challenging the competence of the charges against them, as well as the jurisdiction of the court to prosecute them.
In their preliminary objection raised in the suit, the accused journalists are contending that the sedition charge slammed against them by the Federal Government constituted a gross abuse of the court process.
Counsel to the journalists, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) and Femi Falana who filed the objection on behalf of their clients are challenging the charges on the ground that the offence of sedition covered by section 51 of the Criminal Code Act was declared illegal and unconstitutional in the case of Chief Arthur Nwankwo Vs the State(1985), 6 N.C.L.R at page 228.
They are also attacking the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter in view of the provisions of section 51 of the Criminal Code Act. Meanwhile, hearing into the matter which was slated for yesterday was stalled following the request by the Director of Public Prosecution [DPP], Salihu Aliyu for an adjournment to enable him respond to the objections raised in the suit.
The DPP had told the court that he was just being served with the notice of the preliminary objection Tuesday morning and needed time to respond to it. However, records before the court showed that he was actually served on July 17, 2006 by the court bailiff. Justice Babs Kuewunmi, the trial Judge accordingly adjourned proceedings till October 10, 2006.
The two Journalists were arraigned before the court on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy and sedition by the Federal Government. While Mr. Aruleba was re-arrested by men of the State Security Services (SSS) in Abuja, Durojaiye, the Daily Independent Senior Aviation Correspondent, was picked in Lagos and flown to Abuja.
Both journalists were arraigned on a six-count charge of seditious publication with intent to bring hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the president or the government of the federation. But they had all pleaded not guilty to all the count charge.
The offences according to the charge sheet prepared by the Director of Public Prosecution, Salisu Aliyu are contrary to section 51(1) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Chapter 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN).
Specifically, Mr Aruleba is said to have on or about June 13, 2006, at Lagos and other places in the country within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, with intent to bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the president or the government of the federation did conspire among yourselves to “utter seditious words, publish, or reproduce seditious publication using the medium of ‘Focus Nigeria’ programme on AIT, against the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and/or the government of the federation and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 51(1) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Chapter 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and punishable under section 51(1) of the said Criminal Code Act.”
Durojaiye on the other hand is charged for using the Daily Independent to print, publish sell, offer for sell, distribute or reproduce a seditious publication titled “Controversy over age, cost of presidential jet, five years old, acquired from Lufthansa NAF, Civil pilots fight for control” carried on the front and inside pages of Daily Independent newspaper, of June 12, 2006, property of Independent Newspapers Limited, against the person of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 51(1) (c) of the Criminal Code Act, Chapter 77, LFN, 1990 and punishable under section 51(1) of the said Act.’
They have since been granted bail to the sum of N500,000.00 and one surety each in the like sum.
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