Nigeria’s federal government on Tuesday dragged Leadership Newspapers alongside two of its reporters before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on a 10 count charge for allegedly forging a document titled “Bromide of The Presidential Directive” and placing same on the front page of Leadership newspaper of 3rd day of April, 2013, knowing that the document was forged.
The reporters of the Newspaper, Mr. Tony Amokeode and Chibuzor Ukaibe were alleged to have conspired with another reporter, Taiwo Omilani, who is said to be at large, to forge the document titled “Bromide of The Presidential Directive” and publishing same in their newspaper of 3rd April, 2013, knowing it to be forged and false with the intent that it may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine and thereby committed an offence and punishable under section 467 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The Presidency’s anger over the said publication was clearly evident considering the gravity of the sentence which the journalists will likely get if convicted on any of the counts of the charge.
Count one of the charge wherein the journalists were alleged to have fouled section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 by allegedly forging and the document and putting it pout as genuine, the sections provides for 7 years imprisonment if found guilty while count two which alleged that the accused persons flouted section 467 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, that section provides for 3 years imprisonment if found guilty.
On count 3, the journalists were accused of knowingly and fraudulently uttering a false document titled “Bromide of The Presidential Directive” for the use and consumption of the general public and thereby committed an offence which penalty is seven years imprisonment if found guilty.
Further Presidential fury also manifested in count 6 of the charge wherein the journalists were alleged to have forged the document and placing same on the front page of Leadership newspaper of 3rd April, 2013, having on it the seal, signet or sign manual which purports that the document was from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 467 (1)(b) of the Criminal Code Act. If convicted upon this count, the accused persons face a life sentence.
Similarly, counts 5,7 and 9 specify jail terms of 7 years respectively upon conviction while count 8 of the charge specified a 14 years jail term upon conviction.
As proceedings commenced, Mr. Tony Amokeodo, who is the News Editor of Leadership Newspapers and the first accused in the charge, told the court presided by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, that he and his colleague were detained last night, (Monday) and were driven to court this morning from detention without any information on the charge brought against them.
The prosecutor, Mr. Joe Nwadike informed the court that the Police rearrested the journalists who he said had jumped bail having failed to keep to the terms of the administrative bail they were granted and that it took the effort of a combined team of investigators and security operatives to effect their arrest Monday night.
Nwadike also told the court that the accused persons lawyer had been served with copies of the charge alongside with the notice for their arraignment fixed for today.
The journalists’ plea was however not taken upon the discovery by the court that the company, Leadership Group Limited, the third accused in the charge had not been served.
Consequently, the court directed that the company be served to compel the appearance of a director of the company to represent it.
The prosecutor, Mr. Nwadike, thereafter requested for an adjournment to enable the Police effect service on the company. He further sought for the detention of the journalists pending their arraignment and plea taking.
Mr. Samuel Ogala from Mr. Femi Falana’s chambers who represented the journalists opposed this submission and pleaded with the court to grant them conditional release pending their formal arraignment and plea taking.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola refused Nwadike’s submission and released the journalists to Mr. Umar Jibril, a lawyer and company secretary to Leadership Newspapers and adjourned till 23rd April for their arraignment.
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