Nigeria: How I Was Secretly Arraigned, Denied Access to Lawyer - Detained Premium Times Journalist

Protesters Storm Nigeria Police HQ, demanding Samuel Ogundipe's release

Detained PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, has narrated how he was secretly arraigned at a Magistrate Court in Kubwa on Wednesday afternoon.

The police, through the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), on Tuesday arrested and detained Mr Ogundipe, asking him to disclose his source for a story.

The deputy commissioner of police handling the supposed investigation, Sani Ahmadu, earlier briefed PREMIUM TIMES' staff and the company's lawyer at the detention facility of the SARS in Abuja where Mr Ogundipe is being held, around 10 a.m. in the morning. He said no action would be taken until 4:00 p.m., the time he asked the lawyer to return.

But 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.

Mr Ogundipe was charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document around 1 p.m. He was denied access to his lawyer and employer.

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.

The journalist narrated his ordeal to his colleague and the company's lawyer who visited the detention facility around 6 p.m. and were allowed to see him for a few minutes.

Mr Ogundipe said he was driven barefooted to the Magistrate court in Kubwa around 1pm in the company four police officers including the prosecuting officer. (The name and details of the prosecuting officer cannot be ascertained at the time of filing this report).

Before they left the detention facility, the journalist asked to speak to his lawyer, but was told he would only be allowed to do that when they get to the court.

"At the court, I requested to speak with my lawyer and employer but they said I should wait until after the proceedings.

"The prosecuting officer left me in the car with the three other police officers and went inside the court building. He came out after two hours and asked if I am ready to reveal the source of my story but I refused. Then I was led into the court room."

Apart from the journalist, the magistrate and the four police officers including the prosecuting officer, there was no other person inside the court room.

"I was docked immediately and the prosecuting officer read my charges before the magistrate. I pleaded not guilty. The judge granted the request of the prosecuting officer that I be remanded in custody until August 20 (next five days). The officer said the police needed more time for investigation. "

Meanwhile, the police have turned down requests by the company's lawyer for the court papers and warrant of arrest on two occasions. While the police on Wednesday evening said they cannot provide the documents because the prosecuting officer was not around, it said on Tuesday that there is no photocopy machine at the detention centre.

A colleague who saw Mr Ogundipe at the detention centre said he looked physically worn out.

"He spoke to us behind the counter. We were only allowed five minutes with him before they took him back inside the cell room.

PREMIUM TIMES has condemned the secret arraignment of its staff, and repeated its demand for Mr Ogundipe's immediate release.

Samuel Ogundipe, a reporter at Premium Times

"Each day, the police continue to behave in ways that embarrass this country," said Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed. "But it remains a mystery that acting president Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law and supposed rule of law exponent, has so far failed to call IGP Ibrahim Idris to order.

"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 or the administration.

"They can continue to abuse powers as much as they like. But nothing lasts forever. They are in power today. But they will be powerless someday. What this shows is that public office holders hardly learn anything. They certainly have failed to learn from the experiences of the officials of the immediate past government."

The police want Mr Ogundipe to disclose his source for a story published by PREMIUM TIMES and other news media.

The story revealed a preliminary report written by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on last week's siege to the National Assembly by security officials.

In the preliminary report on the controversial incident prepared for Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday, Mr Idris said Mr Daura was working for some politicians for selfish interest, but did not name the accomplices.

He said Mr Daura did not consult with other security agencies before ordering the siege, and questioned the validity of a security report that allegedly anticipated a violence at the parliament.

Mr Daura was sacked by Mr Osinbajo on Tuesday afternoon. He was immediately handed over to the police for further interrogation, but was later released.

Mr Ogundipe's arrest and detention has been condemned by local and international rights groups and most Nigerians.

However, the federal government and Nigeria's ruling All Progressives Congress have kept mum about it amidst worry among Nigerians that the country was gradually sliding back into a dictatorship and era of media repression.

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