For the past couple of days, social media has been abuzz over the arrest of controversial blogger, Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo over a post she published on her blog in which she accused popular Port-Harcourt pastor and the General Overseer of Salvation Ministries, David Ibiyomie of adultery.
Her arraignment before a Magistrate Court together with one Samuel Walson, the publisher of a local tabloid in Port-Harcourt while dressed in prisoners’ clothes caused quite a furore online.
But what really are the facts of the case?
Omololu-Olunloyo was first arrested on the 17th of March in Ibadan by the police under the Cybercrime Act and the Criminal Code Act for publishing a letter from a member of Pastor Ibiyomie’s church which accused him of corruption and being involved with actress Iyabo Ojo.
She broke the news of her arrest on social media and was then driven to Port-Harcourt where she was arraigned before a magistrate for publication of defamatory matters alongside Walson who syndicated her story.
She was held in prison until 23rd March when she was to have the hearing for her bail application, but it was stalled by the absence of the magistrate due to his being indisposed.
The bail hearing finally held yesterday and she and Walson were given bail in the sum of N200,000 and two civil servants who reside in Port-Harcourt to stand as sureties.
The charge of cybercrime was also dropped against her for the court’s lack of jurisdiction to try the matter.
Unfortunately for her, she is still being held because she has another case against her on the same matter, this time before a Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt for defamation and false publishing. Also, all the charges against Walson have been dropped, leaving her alone to face the music.
As it stands currently, she is now facing a one-count charge of publication of defamatory charges before the Magistrate Court and the Federal High Court at the same time.
Also, while libel and slander are civil offences in Nigeria, defamation and false publishing are crimes under the Criminal Code Act (pdf) and a person found guilty of these is liable for up to two years in prison (Sections 373 – 375 of the Act) or seven years under the section with which she is being charged (Section 516A(1)).
This means that Omololu-Olunloyo is neither being held extra-judiciously nor being tried outside the ambit of the law.
However, what is unusual is her wearing prison clothes to court, seeing as that she is not a convict and as such, should not be wearing clothes meant for prison inmates.
Her cases are still on-going with the one before the Chief Magistrate Court coming up next on the 20th of May, while the one before the Federal High Court has the dates of April 10th, 11th and 12th as the next court dates for accelerated hearing.
Pastor Ibiyomie has already been summoned to appear as a witness and explain how he was affected by the publication.
We will continue to follow the case closely as it is likely to be a landmark case in Nigeria with respect to how bloggers and news sites publish news and content.