Police charge journalist 5 days after Lai Mohammed denied arrest

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By Shola Abayomi.

Barely five days after the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed denied orchestrating the arrest of a journalist identified as Rotimi Jolayemi, aka Oba Akewi, the Nigeria Police Force has charged him for “causing annoyance, insult, hatred and ill will” to the minister.

Jolayemi, the Vice-Chairman, Freelance and Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria, Osun State chapter, who has been detained for 17 days by the Federal Investigation Bureau of the NPF in Abuja, was accused of sharing an audio file in a Whatsapp group which was critical of the minister.

The charge sheet marked, FHC/ABJ/CB/104/2020, read: “That you, Jolayemi Oba Akewi, male, aged 43 years on or about the 14th day of April 2020 at Osolo Compound EKan Nla, Kwara State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did send audio message through your android phone device to a group Whatsapp platform known as ‘Ekan Sons and Daughters’ and which went viral immediately after it was posted for the purpose of causing annoyance, insult, hatred and ill will to the current Hon. Minister of Information and Culture, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc) Act 2015.”

The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) had on Monday voiced concern over Jolayemi’s arrest, which it alleged was at the instance of Alhaji Mohammed.

The CDHR, in a statement issued by its National President, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, also disclosed that the minister ordered the arrest and detention of the journalist’s wife, Mrs Dorcas Jolayemi, and two brothers while the accused was being sought.

The statement read, “Mr Jolayemi is said to have been arrested by the police at the instance of the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on account of a poem read over the radio, considered critical of the minister.

“It is worrisome that Alhaji Lai Mohammed would have a hand in the arrest of the wife of Mr Jolayemi, Mrs Dorcas Jolayemi, and two of his brothers who were kept in detention for eight days, nine days and two days respectively as hostages, while the journalist, Mr Rotimi Jolayemi, was being sought.

“Furthermore, that even since Mr Jolayemi surrendered himself to the police headquarters at Ilorin, Kwara State on May 6, 2020, he is still being held till date, 12 days later, without being charged to court or granted bail.”

It added that “detaining the journalist’s relatives because of his refusal to show up is in violation of Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which forbids hostage-taking and the arrest of any person in place of another.”

Reacting to the CDHR’s claims, Alhaji Mohammed’s media aide, Mr Segun Adeyemi, stressed that the minister “did not order the arrest of anyone.”

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