By Adetokunbo Fakeye
Oga Tom Uhia, Publisher of Independent Power Steering Magazine, a monthly publication was arrested and detained by the police on Tuesday and subsequently charged in a lower court on Wednesday with five counts of criminal conspiracy, injurious falsehood, and defamation of character. His lawyer, Alexander Oketa said.
In a release by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Friday, court documents showed that, prosecution identified complainant as Gabriel Suswam, Governor of Benue State.
The group asked Nigerian authorities to drop the charges against the publisher.
The publisher lawyer, Oketa, it was stated in the release told CPJ that police kept Uhia in custody despite the publisher meeting bail conditions of N2 million and a surety.
He also stated that his client is convicted, he could face up to two years in jail and/or a fine and that his trial date has been scheduled for September 1.
Suswam’s complaint it was said, stemmed from a June issue of Power Steering that republished the magazine’s September 2010 article that questioned whether Suswam was a lawyer.
The story alleged that Suswam used a forged academic certificate to gain admission into schools for graduate and post-graduate degrees.
The magazine said its investigation was based on published documents and the confession of an individual who said he procured forged documents for Suswam.
The allegation which Suswam has denied, according to news reports.
The release revealed that In 2010, the police filed similar charges against the magazine, its editor-in-chief, the individual who said he procured the forged documents, and another individual.
Court documents it said, revealed that the case was quashed after a judicial panel indicted the magistrate who handled the case of “unethical” conduct in favor of Suswam.
The publisher lawyer told CPJ, police continued to persecute Uhia despite an April 2014 ruling by a High Court that restricted the police from “entertaining any charge or application pertaining, concerning and relating to the facts” of the case filed in 2010.
“The wrongdoing in this case would appear to be on the part of the police who are flouting the ruling of the High Court,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa consultant.
“We call on authorities to withdraw all charges against Oga Tom Uhia and release him immediately.”
Cletus Akwaya, a spokesman for Suswam, did not respond to CPJ’s calls and text messages.
In a phone call with CPJ, police spokesman Abayomi Shogunle declined to comment, the release stated.