A Warri, Delta State-based lawyer, human rights activist and teacher, Tareri Avwomakpa, has been dragged to court by the Department of State Services.
The lawyer was dragged to court for declaring support for Apostle Johnson Suleman last month during the attempt by the DSS to arrest the pastor.
Appearing before a Magistrate Court in Asaba, the Delta State capital, the Investigating Police Officer noted that the accused committed the offence under section 59 of the Criminal Code Act (5)
The accused is the son of popular preacher, Archbishop Goddowell Avwomakpa, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the South South Zone, had earlier been arrested and detained for three days by the DSS for allegedly mobilising support for Apostle Suleman during the attempt to arrest him Ekiti state.
The charge against Avwomaklpa is that he has been publishing and circulating false news, rumours and reports on the social media about the invitation of Suleman for a chat with the DSS against the Federal Government and security agencies, which are likely to cause fear, alarm to the public and disturb public peace and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 759 of the Criminal Code Law.
Both the lawyer to the DSS and the IPO told the court they were ready to open their case as the IPO entered the witness box and told the court that through WhatsApp, the accused mobilized Christians to accompany Suleman for a procession to the DSS office in Abuja.
He further went on to tender some internet/computer printout document, which contained different forms of online communications and reactions concerning the defects of the Nigerian Government, which the accused said he knew nothing about.
The NBA Chairman, Asaba branch, Chukwu Ebu, and Kunle Edun, the Vice Chairman of the NBA, Warri branch, who led a team of 13 other lawyers objected vehemently to the admissibility of the documents. According to Edun, there was no foundation laid for the admissibility of such document and that the prerequisite for admitting electronically generated document was not complied with.
Ebu told the court that the document was not in proper shape as recommended by section 84 of the Evidence Act as well as the principles laid down by the Court of Appeal in Kubor v. Dickson.
When the matter came up on Tuesday, the Magistrates Court 1, Asaba was filled pastors and Christians, including Archbishop Goddowell Avwomakpa, who told journalists that the judiciary is the last hope of all citizens of the country and prayed the court to ensure quick dispensation of justice.
Meanwhile Ebu, who spoke to journalists after the court session, noted that the entrenchment of principles of respect for human rights and democratic principles must be upheld, especially by security agencies, as they carry out their activities.
He described the arrest of Barrister Avwomakpa as oppression and impunity taken too far and noted that the national body of the NBA has been informed and that the matter will be pursued to its logical end.
A lawyer, who pleaded anonymity, noted that since the matter is in court, Section 59 of the Criminal Code, under which they charge the accused, provides as follows: “Any person who publishes or reproduces any statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace, knowing or having reason to believe that such statement, rumours, or report is false shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable on conviction to imprisonment for three years.”
But Ebu countered the argument, noting: “It has been affirmed that Apostle Johnson Suleman was invited by the DSS.
“So where is the rumour and false allegations that the DSS based their arrest of Tarire on?”
The Magistrate, Dike Ferdinand Isodi, however, adjourned the matter to March 17.