A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned hearing to March 10, 2022 in a N100 million suit filed by Kings Communication Limited, publishers of the Money Management
Series (MMS) online magazine, against the Nigerian Police and Dangote Petroleum Refinery for alleged unlawful invasion of the premises of the media organization by policemen.
The presiding judge, Justice Tijjani Ringim Garba, adjourned the suit which was earlier fixed for January 12, 2022, following a written request by the lawyer to the Police, Mr. Zebedee Arekhandia.
The suit was filed on behalf of the Kings Communication by human rights lawyer, Mr. Alimi Adamu, a member of Media Rights Agenda’s network of lawyers on the safety of journalists, leading three other freedom of expression lawyers, Ms Chioma Nwaodike, Ms Obioma Okonkwo, and Mr. Sideeq Rabiu.
Named as Respondents in the suit are the Nigerian Police, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 2, Onikan in Lagos; the Lagos State Commissioner of Police; Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Umar R. Shelling; Superintendent of Police Thomas Magaji; Dangote Petroleum Refinery, and its Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Mr. Anthony Chiejina.
Kings Communication is seeking a declaration that the invasion of its premises in Festac Town, Lagos and the intimidation and harassment of its employees on August 10, 2021 by the Nigeria Police, its servants, agents, privies or representatives, without lawful order or warrant of a Court of competent jurisdiction constitutes a gross violation of its fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
It is also asking the court to issue an injunction to restrain them, their servants, agents, privies, representatives or anyone acting for or on their behalf from further harassing, threatening, intimidating or in any other manner infringing on or interfering with the fundamental rights of the company and its employees as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution; and Articles 4, 5, and 14 of the African Charter.
The publishing company is seeking damages against the respondents, jointly and severally, of N100 Million as compensation for the severe damage caused by the invasion of its premises on August 10, 2021, without lawful order or a warrant of a Court of competent jurisdiction.
However, in a counter-affidavit filed in opposition to the suit, the Police denied invading or raiding the media organization’s offices, saying policemen only went to the office to deliver an invitation letter to Mr Kingsley Anaroke, the Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief of media outlet in the course of their investigation into a caused a complaint of false and malicious publication against the online magazine.
The Police claimed that on August 9 2021, they received a petition signed by Mr Chiejina, an official of the Dangote Petroleum Refinery, alleging that Mr. Anaroke and others caused a false and malicious publication on the MMS magazine published by Kings Communication.
The Police said on August 10, 2021, as part of their investigation into the alleged crime, two plain clothes officers who were unarmed went to Kings Communication’s office in Festac Town, Lagos to deliver the invitation letter and met Mr Yusuf Odejobi, a reporter working with the organization, who introduced himself to them.
According to the Police, the officers invited Mr. Odejobi for formal interrogation, and he voluntarily followed them to their office.
The Police contended that its officers are statutorily empowered to investigate alleged crimes reported against any person or persons, including the alleged crimes of false and malicious online publication written against Mr Anaroke and others.
The hearing scheduled for January 12 2022 could not take place as Mr. Arekhandia had sent a letter dated January 7, 2022 to the court pleading that he was engaged in another jurisdiction and was therefore unable to come to court. He applied that the matter should be adjourned to a later date.
Justice Garba accordingly granted the request for adjournment and fixed the matter for March 10, 2022.