BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA – The Nigeria Police Force has arraigned the young Editor of NewsDigest, an Abuja-based online newspaper, Gidado Yushau and award-winning Campus Journalist, Alfred Olufemi before a magistrate court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

The duo were arraigned over a petition by a company allegedly owned by the Special Adviser to the President on Finance and Economy, Dr. Sarah Alade over a report on hemp smoking published on May 19, 2018.

The report titled: “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is ‘legalized,” was authored by Mr Olufemi, a student journalist from one of the premier universities in the country.

According to the report, Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry, one of the groups of companies believed to be owned by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Sarah Alade, tolerated the smoking of cigarettes, as well as Indian hemp by workers within its premises.

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 industry’s hotlines.

Police operatives had arrested the platform’s professional webmaster, 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 contrary to Sections 97 and 192 of the penal code.

The First Information Report (FIR) obtained by PRNigeria averred that the two defendants “criminally conspired to tarnish the name and image of Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries”

However, Shuaib and Olufemi pleaded not guilty before the 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 self-recognition, saying 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 (N200,000.00)

The case was adjourned for hearing to January 13, 2020.

Before their arraignment, Gidado Shuaib and Adekoya were detained and later released by the Kwara State Police Command after they were thoroughly quizzed for publishing the investigative report.

The reporter of the story, Alfred Olufemi is a university student and an investigative journalist whose works have appeared in major news media in Nigeria.

He is a recipient of News Editor Award of the Nigerian Universities Merit Award (NUMA) 2018, Campus journalist of the year 2018 and Investigative Reporter of the Year at the 2019 Campus Journalism Award. One of his award-winning investigative reports include “Kwara communities where pregnant women abandon health centres for herbalist,” and the report on the factory allegedly belonging to Dr. Alade

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