15 April 2019

Nigerian Activist Jailed Seven Years for 'Falsely' Accusing Public Official of Corruption

A Nigerian activist has been jailed for seven years for falsely accusing a public official of corruption.

Ibrahim Wala, popularly called I G Wala, was jailed on Wednesday by Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

He was found guilty of falsely accusing the head of a pilgrim commission of corruption and leading a protest against the official.

Justice Halilu found Mr Wala guilty on three of the four charges filed against him by the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation.

The three charges for which he was found guilty include unlawful assembly, public incitement and criminal defamation of character.

The judge, however, dismissed the charge of criminal intimidation for lack of merit.

The trial

The activist was arraigned following a petition filed by the chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mukhtar.

In the petition, Mr Mukhtar alleged that Mr Wala used his Facebook page to incite the public against him and defame his integrity and that of the commission he heads.

On the charge of unlawful assembly, Mr Wala was found guilty of using his organisation, the Citizens Action To Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), to form an unlawful assembly. The judge ruled that the organisation was unregistered.

The judge said the prosecution "has been able to establish the offence of making an unlawful assembly."

He, therefore, sentenced him to seven years in Prison for the offence.

The judge also found Mr Wala guilty of public incitement, an offence contrary to section 114 of the penal code which deals with the breach of public peace.

He sentenced him to three years in prison for the offence.

Mr Yusuf also agreed with the prosecution that Mr Wala criminally defamed Mr Mukhtar after he alleged that the NAHCON boss "made N3 billion for himself" from the 2017 Hajj operations.

The judge said Mr Wala wrote on his Facebook page that he has documents to prove the allegation.

He, however, said the activist failed to provide the document to prove his claims in court.

"Where is the document proving N3 billion made by chairman hajj commission?

"Why has the accused person failed to tender such document now that he has been dragged before a court of law?" the judge said.

He said by his inability to provide relevant documents to prove his 'huge allegations', Mr Wala "has made the case of the prosecution less cumbersome".

The judge sentenced him to two years in prison for criminal defamation.

Concurrent Jail Terms

The judge also said all the sentences would be served concurrently; meaning the convict would serve seven years in jail unless the ruling is upturned by an appeal court.

Mr Wala is to serve the sentence in Suleja prison.

Mr Wala has led protests against issues like corruption and human rights violations in several parts of the country.

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