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Arrest

29.06.2022 Featured How Story on Bauchi APC Chairman’s Murder Led to Arrest, Detention of WikkiTimes Journalists

Published 29th Jun, 2022

By Joseph Adeiye

Haruna Mohammed, publisher of WikkiTimes, a Bauchi-state based platform, and Idris Kamal, a journalist with the outfit, are currently being held by officers of the Bauchi State Police Command after they honoured an invitation by the police, FIJ can report.

On May 18, WikkiTimes had published a report titled ‘How Bauchi APC Chairman Died After Series of Threats’.

In this report, the outlet wrote that Hussaini Musa Gwaba, chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bauchi State, received a series of threats before being eventually assassinated.

It said it “reliably gathered that the emergence of Gwaba as chairman angered Hon. Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, a member representing Bauchi Federal Constituency”.

Abdullahi, according to sources quoted by the paper, considered Gwaba a threat to his 2023 political ambitions and decided to join forces with other aggrieved members of the party in the state to run a parallel election to elect another party chairman.

On condition of anonymity, a member of staff of WikkiTimes told FIJ that the police invited both Mohammed and Kamal to appear on Monday, an invitation they considered surprising as the matter was civil.

“They invited the publisher and Kamal to the station on Monday, and they went with our lawyer. The police did not let them go until later in the evening,” the source told FIJ.

“The next day (Tuesday) both of them went back to the station to honour the invitation again, but they were later locked up. If the man (Abdullahi) wants to pursue a defamation case, he should go to court. The police should not be detaining them.”

On Tuesday night, the International Press Centre (IPC) condemned the arrest and detention of the journalists.

In a release titled ‘IPC DECRIES DETENTION AND HARASSMENT OF WIKKI TIMES PUBLISHER AND REPORTER’, and signed by Toyin Ayoade, IPC’s Communications Officer,  the group condemned, “in strong terms, the harassment and molestation of Mr. Haruna Mohammed, the publisher of WikkiTimes online newspaper and one of the reporters, Mr. Idris Kamal, by the police in Bauchi, Bauchi State.”

READ ALSO: Police in Osun Shoot Journalist, Two Others During Youth Protest

“The ordeal of the two journalists began on Monday, June 27, 2022, when they honoured an invitation from the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) following a petition by Mr. Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi, a member of the House of Representatives representing Bauchi Federal Constituency concerning a Wikki Times report of May 18, 2022, on the sudden death of Chairman of the All Progressive Peoples Congress (APC) in the Bauchi Local Government Area of the state,” read the statement.

“The journalists arrived the station about 10am on Monday, but after making a statement, they were clamped into a cell where they alleged that they were physically assaulted. Despite the presence of their lawyer at the police station, they were not set free until about 10 hours later and asked to report back on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, for further interrogation.

“The two journalists again reported at the SCIID Bauchi on Tuesday as directed but were promptly taken before a Bauchi Magistrates Court where they were charged for criminal conspiracy, defamation of character and cyber stalking. The court ruled that they should be held in custody until Wednesday June 29, 2022.”

READ ALSO: DSS Arrests Veteran Journalist Lanre Arogundade the Second Time in Four Days

The IPC called on Bauchi police to not be used as tools of harassment against journalists, stating that it is illegal to have detained Mohammed and Kamal and physically harass them.

“Since the petitioner alleged defamation, the police should have in the first instance advised him to seek legal redress instead of illegally detaining the journalists for 10 hours on Monday, June 27, 2022, and subjecting them to physical and mental harassment in the process,” Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director of the IPC, said.

Arogundade also said journalists should not be treated as “endangered species” in Nigeria.

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Published 29th Jun, 2022

By Joseph Adeiye

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