Court grants bail to blogger accused of defaming bank chief
A Federal High Court, Lagos has granted bail in the sum of N3 million to a blogger, Seun Oloketuyi, arraigned by the police for allegedly publishing defamatory story against the Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo.
Oloketuyi had been remanded in Ikoyi Prisons since August 25, 2015, after he was arraigned on two counts of malicious publication against Okonkwo before Justice Mohammed Yunusa.
The accused blogger, who is the organiser of the Annual Best of Nollywood Awards, was granted bail on Tuesday following argument by his counsel, Dr. Muiz Banire.
Banire, who led a team of nine lawyers, said Oloketuyi had the right to be granted bail by virtue of Section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which stipulates that an accused should be presumed innocent until the prosecution is able to prove otherwise.
He also questioned the propriety of the charge filed by the police against the blogger, adding that the offence with which the accused was purportedly charged is a bailable offence.
Banire contended that the charge sheet did not disclose enough evidence against the accused and urged the court to exercise discretion in his favour.
He argued: “There is no proof of evidence; there is no list of witnesses that the prosecution intends to call; somebody just woke up one morning and wrote something on a sheet of paper, unleashing it on the court.
“My Lord, there is even no charge properly filed before this court in the first place. My understanding of the law is that you cannot just bring an ordinary sheet before Your Lordship.”
Banire said there was no element of crime in the charge filed by the police against the blogger, saying, what anyone who felt maligned with his publication should have done was to sue for libel.
He, however, pleaded with the court to consider the trauma that the aged mother of the accused had been going through since the blogger was remanded.
He also said the blogger had a wife and two children that he was responsible to, adding that he had been through much trouble in the last one week due to the poor condition of the Nigerian prison.
He also claimed that prior to being charged to court, operatives of the Department of State Services had harassed and inflicted physical injuries on the accused blogger.
Banire assured the judge that if granted bail, Oloketuyi would not abscond, saying he was a responsible young man and an entrepreneur, who had employees working for him in his media outfit.
But the police prosecutor, Mr. Olakanmi Omisope, urged the court to refuse the bail application, saying the accused blogger was a serial blackmailer, who was currently being investigated by the DSS for other related offences.
In a bench ruling, however, Justice Yunusa granted Oloketuyi bail in the sum of N3 million with two sureties in like sum.
The judge said one of the sureties must be a blood relation of the accused and must depose to an affidavit of means.
The surety must also be an owner of a landed property in Lagos, the Certificate of Occupancy of which must be verified by the prosecution.
The judge ordered Oloketuyi to sign an undertaking that he would not go ahead to further publish the allegedly malicious story on Okonkwo.
The police alleged that Oloketuyi published on his blog, www.naijahottestgist.com, that Okonkwo had an extramarital affair with one Justina, a married woman working in the Marketing Department of Fidelity Bank.
The blogger was alleged to have published that the affair between Okonkwo and Justina resulted in Justina’s husband, Ben, sending her out.
The blogger was alleged to have also published that Okonkwo had since sent Justina abroad for further studies and had taken over responsibility for Justina’s children.
The police said Oloketuyi acted contrary to and he was liable to punishment under Section 24 (1) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition) Act 2015 and Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Oloketuyi, who was said to have since retracted the publication and tendered apology to Okonkwo, however, pleaded not guilty to the two counts.
The matter has been adjourned till November 4, 2015.