Mrs Sarah Alade, an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on finance and the economy, has taken two journalists, Alfred Olufemi and Gidado Yushau, to court for alleged defamation and is claiming N500 million from them as damages.
She also sought an order compelling them to retract and delete the links of the report from their news platform and to publish an apology on their online news platform and two national dailies.
The said defamatory story, published by NewsDigest, an Abuja-based online newspaper, titled, ‘Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is legalised’, reports that workers are allowed to smoke cigarette and Indian hemp at Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry without warning or penalty. The industry is owned by Mrs Alade.
Alfred and Gidado were arrested by the police who later arraigned them at a Magistrate Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital and charged them with criminal conspiracy and defamation against Sections 97 and 192 of the penal code.
They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by chief magistrate A. O Muhammed.
The conditions of bail include producing two sureties who are their relatives with a bail bond of N200,000.
On October 25, 2019, Mr Adebowale Adekoya, webmaster for NewsDigest, was arrested in Ikorodu, Lagos State by operatives of the Kwara State Police Command, without any warrant of arrest, over the story. The alleged defamatory story, published by NewsDigest in May 2018, was not written by him but by a reporter with NewsDigest.
Adebowale was initially taken to Pakodo Police Station in Ikorodu after which he was driven to Ilorin, Kwara State. He was again driven to Abuja on October 28 where he was detained overnight.
On October 29, he was forced to take the policemen to the office of NewsDigest and to identify the editor, Gidado Yushau, whom they arrested. The police drove Adebowale and Gidado to Ilorin where they were detained and questioned by the police. They were later released on October 31 on police bail.