Lokoja – The Police on Tuesday arraigned Austin Okai, 35, an Online-Publisher in a Lokoja Chief Magistrates’ Court on alleged sedition against the Kogi State Government.
Okai was arraigned on a four-count charge of inciting disturbance, criminal defamation, causing disappearance of evidence and sedition against the state.
The Prosecuting Officer, ASP. Gabriel Otowu told the court that the offences contravened Sections 104, 392, 416 and 167 of the state’s Penal Code Law.
Otowu said Commodore Jerry Omodara (rtd), the Security Adviser to the governor reported the matter to the Commissioner of Police, Kogi State Police Command on April 7.
The prosecutor said Omodara had complained that Okai made some on-line publications which were later investigated.
He said the publications were false and amounted to blackmail on the governor and his entire cabinet.
Otowu also told the court that the publisher allegedly used the publications to set the indigenes of the state against the government.
The prosecuting officer further said that Okai also issued a false publication labeling the governor as a “disaster and pain to the state”.
He also told the court that it was discovered that the defendant allegedly orchestrated the false publication of the governor’s recent death rumour.
The prosecution also alleged that Okai had recruited some like-minded youths that attempted to burn down the state’s revenue house on the first anniversary of the government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the offences.
Okai described the suit as a sheer confrontation of the media by the state government, adding that he had only kept the people updated with activities in the state on his platform.
Mr Williams Aliwo, counsel to Okai applied for bail of his client.
He brought the application pursuant to Sections 36(5) and 35(4) of the constitution as well as Section 341(2,3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Aliwo assured the court that his client would be available to stand trial when admitted on bail.
He further prayed the court to grant Okai bail with lenient conditions, adding that he had not been charged with any criminal matter before.
The prosecuting officer, however, opposed the application, adding that the defendant should be remanded in police custody.
He said his prayer was predicated on the ground that investigation was on-going.
Otowo further said the prosecution had reservation on the release of the defendant from custody as he could influence the ongoing investigation.
He also said the offences were serious, adding that the defendant could escape justice.
Ruling on the bail application, Chief Magistrate Levi Animoku held that the court had jurisdiction over the charges brought against the defendant with exception of sedition.
Animoku held that only the High Court had jurisdiction to try the offence of sedition under Section 416 of the Penal Code.
“The content of the First Information Report (FIR) touches on the state and the public.
“For now, I intend to tread softly on the issue of bail of the accused. This will enable the prosecution to conclude their investigation”, he said.
He, therefore, ordered the defendant to be kept in police custody.
Animokun then adjourned the case till April 13, for mention.