Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday fixed March 28, 2015 to rule in a suit filed by a journalist, Ebere Wabara, seeking to restrain the police from re-arresting him.
The applicant, Wabara, an associate editor with The Sun Newspaper, alongside his colleague, Chuks Onuoha, had filed the suit against the police over the violation of his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution.
Wabara was arrested by the police for allegedly publishing a seditious story and thus defamed the character of the Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji.
Joined as respondents in the suit are: the Inspector-General of Police, Sulaiman Abba, as well as Chief Magistrate John Ukpai from Abia State and the Attorney General of Abia State, Kalu Umeh.
Abang reserved ruling in the suit on Monday after the counsel representing both parties had adopted their written addresses before the court.
Chukuyem Atewe, the counsel representing the applicants, prayed the court to grant all the reliefs sought by the applicants in the interest of justice.
Atewe urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection filed by the respondents on the issue of jurisdiction and rather look at the substance of the suit.
Umeh, responding to the submissions of the applicants’ counsel, adopted his written address and moved in term.
He submitted that the issue of jurisdiction was very crucial in order for the court to determine whether it could entertain the suit or not.
Umeh, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
Justice Abang said that the court would rule on both the preliminary objection filed by the respondents and the applicant’s suit after he had listened to the submissions of both parties.
The judge said if by his finding he considered the preliminary objection worthy, the suit would be dismissed.
Otherwise, the court would proceed and deliver its judgment.
He then adjourned the case to March 28, 2015 for ruling.
One of the applicants is seeking an order restraining the respondents from arresting or detaining him following a bench warrant issued by the second respondent, on a charge of sedition preferred against him.
In his affidavit, the applicant averred that he had practiced as a journalist for over 30 years, and once served as a special assistant to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the Publisher of The Sun Newspaper.
He said that on March 28, some policemen from the Abia State Police Command stormed his Aguda residence in Surulere, Lagos State and dragged him to Sholoki Police Station in Surulere, from where he was taken to Umuahia, Abia State.
He said he was arrested and handcuffed while still on his underpants, and taken away.
The applicant said that he was subjected to extreme dehumanising conditions at the police station in Umuahia, adding that he was eventually released on bail on the March 29, with Onuoha standing surety.
Wabara said that he was asked to return to the station on March 31.
He averred that when he arrived in Lagos, he took ill due to the harsh condition he was subjected to at Umuahia and was admitted at Duntro Hospital in Surulere.
He 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 Orji.
The applicant said that a bench warrant for his arrest and detention was attached to the charge levied against him.
He averred that as a journalist, he was entitled to the freedom of expression and was also at liberty to hold opinion and impart information without interference.
The applicant, therefore, wanted 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.