Thursday, April 3, 2014

Embattled The Sun editor drags IG, Abia AG to court


• Demands enforcement of his fundamental human rights
Traumatised Associate Editor of The Sun, Mr. Ebere Wabara, has dragged the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar and Abia State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice before a Federal High Court, Lagos, for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights.
Joined in the suit, filed by his counsel, John Nwokwu, from the chambers of Bamidele Aturu & Co, was the Chief Magistrate of Abia State.
Wabara was abducted from his Surulere, Lagos home last Friday by men of the Abia State Police Command, who later took him to Umuahia in handcuffs.
After his release on bail at 10.15p.m on Saturday, Wabara landed in hospital due to the ordeal he went through in the hands of his captors. His ill health did not stop the police from slamming him with 10-count charge bothering on seditious publications against the person of the Abia State Governor, Theodore Amaefule Orji.  Due to his absence in court, the police also secured a bench warrant against him and his surety, Chuks Onuoha, The Sun correspondent in Umuahia.
The abduction saga and the case of sedition slammed on Wabara have attracted public condemnation from well-meaning Nigerians, media practitioners and legal luminaries, who described the police action as archaic and a contradiction to the provisions of the nation’s constitution.
Yesterday, Wabara approached a Federal High Court in Lagos to enforce his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the provisions of 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
In the origination summon, dated April 1, 2014 and brought pursuant to sections 35, 39 46 (1) and (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); Articles 6, 7(2) and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, cap. A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 as well as in Order II Rules 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, the embattled The Sun editor sought a declaration of the court barring any police officer from arresting or detaining him and his co-applicant (Chuks Onuoha).
Wabara and Onuoha also sought for an order of the court setting aside the bench warrant issued against them by the Abia State Chief Magistrate Court, Umuahia.
Among the reliefs they seek are: “A declaration that no officer serving under the operational command of the 1st respondent (Inspector General of Police) can lawfully arrest and detain the applicants on the basis of a bench warrant purportedly issued by the 2nd respondent on the 31st day of March 2014 in respect of charges of sedition or criminal defamation which on the authority of the Court of Appeal decision in Arthur Nwankwo V State (1985) NCLR 288 is no longer a legally punishable offence having regard to section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“A declaration that the bench warrant purportedly issued for the arrest and detention of the applicants by the 2nd respondent on the 31st day of March 2014 in respect of charges of sedition or criminal defamation, which on the authority of the Court of Appeal decision in Arthur Nwankwo V State (1985) NCLR 288 is no longer a legally punishable offence, having regard to section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended is null, void, illegal, inoperative, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
“An order setting aside the bench warrant purportedly issued for the arrest and detention of the applicants by the 2nd Respondent on the 31st day of March 2014 in respect of charges of sedition or criminal defamation.
“A declaration that charge nos. U/111c/2014 between Commissioner of Police v Ebere Wabara containing charges of sedition or criminal defamation, which, on the authority of the Court of Appeal decision in Arthur Nwankwo V State (1985) NCLR 288, is no longer a legally punishable offence, having regard to section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, is null, void, illegal, inoperative, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
“An order quashing charge nos. U/111c/2014 Between Commissioner of Police v Ebere Wabara containing charges of sedition or criminal defamation, on the authority of the Court of Appeal decision in Arthur Nwankwo V State (1985) NCLR 288 is no longer a legally punishable offence, having regard to section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, whether by themselves, agents, servants, privies, or officers or by whomsoever and howsoever from arresting or detaining the applicants or in any other way limiting, restricting, or abridging their right to personal liberty guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, cap A. 9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 on the basis of the bench warrant purportedly issued for the arrest and detention of the Applicants by the 2nd Respondent on the 31st day of March 2014 in respect of charges of sedition or criminal defamation.
The two journalists based their application on the grounds that the  “charges of sedition and criminal defamation against the 1st applicant no longer constitute legally punishable offences, having regard to section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and the Court of Appeal decision in Arthur Nwakwo v State (1985) NCLR 288.
It stated: “The applicants are entitled not to be arrested on the basis of an unconstitutional criminal process or proceedings.
“The applicants, as journalists are entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to impart information without interference.”
In the 18-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion on notice, deposed to by Wabara, he stated the his ordeal was not unconnected with the sour relationship by Governor Orji and his political godfather and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu
“The political relationship between Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, who was the political godfather of the present Governor of Abia State, Chief T.A. Orji, has soured and I believe I am being maliciously victimised by the latter for my continued closeness to his former benefactor,” he stated.
He, therefore, urged the court to expedite action on the application, stating that the “respondents and their agents, particularly officers of the 1st respondent (IG) will enforce the bench warrant issued against us unless this honourable court restrain them.”