Criminal Defamation: Bayelsa Govt Takes Over Prosecution Of Sylva’s Ex-Speech Writer

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Fresh facts on Saturday emerged on the decision of the Bayelsa State Government decision to take over the prosecution of Barr. Jonah Okah,the Former Speech Writer to the Former Governor of the State, Chief Timipre Sylva.

Police had on wednesday arrested Barr. Jonah Okah following a petition filed by the State Government House, Mr. Ritchie Etonye based on alleged defamation of character over claims of telephone conversation over the alleged missing $4.6million money purportedly belonging to Governor Seriake Dickson.

When the matter came up for mention at the magistrate court sitting in Yenagoa presided over by Margistrate Pere Bassa, the  prosecutor from the State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Pere Egbuson, announced appearance for the prosecution instead of Police prosecution team.

Barr. Jonah Okah,who is also identified as a Civil Servant, was charged with  a one count charge of Criminal defamation of character and breach of public peace.

The Defence counsel, Mr.Pre Abala, had asked the court to grant the request of the accused for accelerated bail application. Mr.Okah had pleaded not guilty. But the prosecutor from the State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Pere Egbuson, asked the court to deny Mr.Okah’s application for bail.

After listening to the arguments on the bail application, the Magistrate, Pere Bossa, ordered that Mr.Okah be remanded in Okaka prison until the 20th of this month for her ruling on the application for bail.

‎Meanwhile, ‎a social and political activist, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, has expressed serious concern over the show of towards loyalists of the Former Governor,Chief Timipre Sylva by Governor  Seriake Dickson.

According to Buokoribo,  has been exhibiting since his emergence as Governor of Bayelsa State. The activist’s concern follows Wednesday’s arrest of Chief Timipre Sylva’s loyalist, Barrister Jonah Okah, by the police in Bayelsa State on the orders of the Bayelsa State Governor for his alleged comments on Facebook.

Buokoribo  called for the immediate release of Jonah Okah from police custody. Buokoribo appealed to the Nigerian Bar Association in the state and all lovers of freedom to speak out against alleged Governor Dickson’s wild attack on free speech.

In a statement in Yenagoa on Thursday, Doifie Buokoribo“Now, I have read the said post made by Jonah Okah who has degrees in Philosophy and Law, and is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. It is common knowledge in communication that what Okah wrote is a SATIRE”

“If the Dickson syndicate does not understand the meaning of satire, that is their headache.In any case, if Dickson or his aides think they have been defamed, the proper thing under the law is to sue for libel. The police have no business in this matter, except they have any other reason for this arrest.”

“What did Okah write compared to Dickson’s media aides that have made the slandering of Sylva their professional calling?Clearly, the Dickson syndicate wants to give Jonah Okah the ‘Tonye Okio Therapy’. On 26 October 2013, Tonye Okio, a Sylva loyalist, was whisked away by the police in a Gestapo style from his Abuja home on the orders of Dickson, and made to spend 86 days at Okaka Prison. His crime: Comments made on FaceBook. It took a global uproar from human activists for Okio to regain freedom.”

“After Okio, another social media critic, Melford Esinte, was arrested. When he managed to secure bail from a Magistrate court, Dickson ordered his re-arrest. Esinte was subsequently whisked to Sagbama, Dickson’s home town, where he was asked to produce a level 16 civil servant from the town or a gazzetted traditional ruler from the same community to sign his bail bond, draconian conditions that were deliberately set to maximise the persecution of Dickson’s perceived enemy. So many citizens have suffered untold hardships from Dickson for merely expressing their views about how the state is being (mis)governed.”

“Not satisfied that citizens remained unbent, Dickson introduced the ludicrous ‘Malicious Misinformation and Rumour Mongering Bill’. With that bill, Dickson wanted powers to jail people for couples bedtime tales or beer parlour jokes.”

“But then, there is a limit to even lawlessness. In this age of freedom, no government can successfully gag the citizenry. That is why even the Nigerian National Assembly, which had contemplated enacting an anti-social media bill, backed off following a national outrage. It is impossible for Dickson to defeat the resolve of the people of Bayelsa State to participate in the governance of their state. Bayelsa belongs to us all!”

“I call for the immediate release of Jonah Okah from police custody. I call upon the state branch of the Nigerian Bar Association to intervene in this matter; I call upon the Nigerian and international human rights community to speak out against what is clearly an assault on free speech. I call upon all lovers of freedom to call Dickson to order”


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