A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday fixed June 16 to hear an objection to a suit filed by a journalist seeking the enforcement of his fundamental rights against the police.
The applicant, Ebere Wabara, Associate Editor of The Sun newspapers, and his colleague, Chuks Onuoha, had filed the suit against the police through their lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, alleging violation of their rights as enshrined in the constitution.
Joined as respondents in the suit are the Inspector-General of Police; the Abia State Chief Magistrate, John Ukpai; and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Abia State, Kalu Umeh (SAN).
At the resumed hearing of the case, Umeh, appearing for himself, informed the court of his preliminary objection to the suit.
He said the objection was challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Meanwhile, Aturu informed the court that although he had been served with the processes of the respondent, he had yet to file a response.
He, therefore, prayed the court for a short date to enable him regularise.
Justice Okon Abang in a short ruling adjourned the case to June 16 for hearing.
The applicant is seeking an order restraining the respondents from arresting or detaining him, following a bench warrant issued by the second respondent on the basis of a charge of sedition levied against him.
In his affidavit, the applicant averred that he had practised as a journalist for over 30 years and served as Special Assistant to the Publisher of The Sun newspaper, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.
Wabara said that on March 28, some policemen from the Abia State Police Command stormed his residence at Aguda in Surulere, Lagos and dragged him to Sholoki Police Station in Surulere, before he was taken to Umuahia, the Abia State capital.
He said he was arrested while still on his underpants, handcuffed and taken away.
The applicant said that he was subjected to dehumanising conditions at the police station in Umuahia, adding that he was eventually released on bail on March 29, with Onuoha standing as surety.
Wabara said that he was asked to return to the station on March 31.
He averred that when he returned to Lagos, he took ill due to the harsh condition he was subjected to at Umuahia and was admitted at Duntro Hospital in Surulere.
The editor said that on March 31, he was informed by a source that the respondents had preferred a criminal charge against him, alleging that he had committed sedition and had defamed the character of the Governor of Abia of Abia State, Chief Theodore Orji.
Wabara said that on the face of the charge levied against him, was attached a bench warrant for his arrest and detention.
He averred that as a journalist, he was entitled to freedom of expression and was also at liberty to hold opinion and impart information without interference.
The applicant, therefore, wants the court to vacate the bench warrant purportedly issued by the second respondent on the ground that sedition no longer constituted a punishable offence under Section 39 of the Constitution as amended.
Wabara also avers that on the authority of Arthur Nwankwo V State, reported in 1985, NCLR 288, sedition was no longer a punishable offence recognised by the Constitution.