Police secretly arraign PREMIUM TIMES journalist

August 16th, 2018

The Nigerian police secretly commenced the trial of PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, on Wednesday, while denying him access to his lawyers.
The police arraigned Mr Ogundipe at a Magistrate Court in Kubwa on Wednesday afternoon.
He was charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document.
Earlier on Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES’ staff and the company’s lawyer visited the detention facility of the Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS, in Abuja where Mr Ogundipe is being detained.
At about 10am, the lawyer and the staff were allowed to see Mr Ogundipe. They were also briefed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police handling the supposed investigation, Sani Ahmadu.
Mr Ahmadu and other police officers present asked the PREMIUM TIMES’ lawyer and other staff present to leave the SARS facility and return at 4pm.
Earlier, the police commissioner had interrogated Mr Ogundipe and repeatedly asked him to name his source for a story as a condition to be released.
Despite the protest by the lawyer, Mr Ahmadu said no action would be taken until the 4pm he asked the lawyer to return. Like most actions of the police since the targeted attack at PREMIUM TIMES began on Saturday, that turned out to be a ruse and deceit.
At about 4pm, PREMIUM TIMES’ Editor-In-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, received a call from the court.
Mr Ogundipe had been secretly taken to the Kubwa magistrate court where he was tried. Even though he repeatedly told the police that he would, as legally allowed, need to contact his lawyers or his employer before going to court, the police refused.
When the charge was brought before the magistrate, there was no mention Mr Ogundipe was a journalist to the judge. The police carefully avoided mentioning that, only telling the magistrate he was being charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document.
The magistrate then gave an order that he be detained for five more days, till August 20. It was the magistrate who ordered that he be allowed to make a call while within the court premises.
It was the phone of a court official that Mr Ogundipe used to contact the editor.
“They brought me to a magistrate court in Kubwa where they arraigned me. The magistrate said they should detain me for five days.
“They accused me of criminal trespass. They said I stole secret documents. The magistrate does not know the details, because they did not include in the charge that I am a journalist. I was not allowed to contact my lawyers.”
“They also did not allow me to call anyone until the magistrate ordered them to let me make one call. I am currently using the registrar’s phone to make this call and they are collecting it,” Mr Ogundipe said just before the call ended.
Mr Ogundipe said the police accused him of violating sections 352, 288 and 319 of the penal code.
A review of the sections, however, indicate that they are not related to the charges but are about sexual assault and attempted murder.
PREMIUM TIMES condemned the secret arraignment of its staff, and repeated its demand for Mr Ogundipe’s immediate release.
“Each day, the police continue to behave in ways that embarrass this country. PREMIUM TIMES has a constitutional duty to inform the Nigerian people and hold public officials to account. It will neither be intimidated nor cowed by the filthy antics of the police,” said Editor-in-chief Musikilu Mojeed.

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