The Nigeria Police has arraigned the editor of NewsDigest, Abuja-based online newspaper, Gidado Yushau and award-winning campus journalist, Alfred Olufemi before a magistrate court in Ilorin Metropolis over an investigative report on hemp smoking published on 19 May 2018.
Reports said the duo were arraigned over a petition from a company owned by the just appointed Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Finance and Economy, Dr. Sarah Alade.
The investigative report titled “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is legalised” was authored by Olufemi, a student journalist from one of Nigeria’s university.
According to the report, Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry, one of the groups of companies owned by the former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Sarah Alade tolerated the smoking of cigarettes, as well as Indian hemp by workers within its vicinity.
The report also stated that the industry refused to respond to Olufemi’s inquiry on the disturbing situation after he had put several calls and text messages to the factory.
Police operatives earlier arrested the platform’s publisher, Adebowale Adekoya in Lagos and Gidado Yushau in Abuja before taking them to Ilorin for further questioning. Olufemi Alfred voluntarily submitted himself to the police later in Ilorin.
According to the police, their arrest was based on a petition received from the company’s management, which debunked the claims in the publication.
However, on Tuesday, the two defendants- Gidado and Alfred were charged with criminal conspiracy and defamation.
The First Information Report (FIR) averred that the two defendants “criminally conspired to tarnish the name and image of Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries”.
Both Shuaib and Olufemi pleaded not guilty before a Magistrate Court in Ilorin Metropolis Following the bail application made by the defence counsel, Barrister Usman Kola Belgore, the Chief Magistrate of the Court, Magistrate A.O Muhammed released the defendants on grounds of recognition and that they are innocent until proven otherwise.
The conditions of bail include two sureties each who are relatives of the defendants with a bail bond of two hundred thousand naira.
The case was adjourned for hearing on January 13.
Earlier, Shuaib and Adekoya were detained and subsequently released by the Kwara State Police Command after they were thoroughly quizzed for publishing the investigative report.