On July 23, 2020, Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State, struck out all charges against six students and a lecturer of Madonna University, Okija, also in Anambra State who were arrested, charged with offences, including violating the Cybercrime. They had been arrested and detained for allegedly criticising the university in Facebook posts in 2018 which allegedly portrayed the school “in a bad light”.
The Judge struck out the case followed the entry of a nolleprosequi (withdrawal of criminal case) by the prosecuting counsel, Arthur Obi-Okafor, who said he had the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation (SGF) to withdraw the charges.
The students: OparaHarmelson, OwhondaBadaziri, Abuno Jonathan, ChijiokeNnamani, Amaechi Benedict, BlacksonNwokeoma, and a former lecturer/Dean of Students at the University, Tony Ezeimo were slammed with eleven-count charge by the Prosecutor, Mr. A.N. Obo who claimed they posted false publication on social media which were injurious to the image of the proprietor and the institution, adding that the alleged offences were punishable under sections 27 (1) (b) and 24 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.
One of the Facebook posts which revealed inhumane treatment of students in the university reads: “Good lecturers are scarce. Madonna University administration should be nice to our lecturers, or a good number of them will resign.”
Following a complaint by the institution, security operatives picked the students and lecturer, including those participating in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme from various locations, took them to the Okija campus of the university where they were first detained in a police cell and later taken to the Awka Prison.
They were arraigned in-suite No.FHC/FHC/C/03/2019 before the court under section 27(1) (b) of the Nigerian Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act, 2015 for offences allegedly committed between January 1 and December 31, 2018. They were accused of, among others, sending “false messages” through social media which caused “annoyance, inconvenience, danger, insult, injury, criminal intimidation…”
Police brought the charges against the group following a complaint submitted by the university and they were detained. They remained detained till July 3, 2019 when they were granted bail which application was filled and heard on February 19 but they were kept in prison for five months.
On July 3, a Federal High Court in Awka, the capital city of Anambra State in southeast Nigeria, granted the men release on bail. Although the application for bail for the group was filled and heard on February 19, they remained in prison for five months.