Absence of witnesses stalls hearing of case against two young journalists
A magistrate sitting in Ilorin, A.S Muhammed, has adjourned the case of defamation against two journalists, Messrs Gidado Yushau and Alfred Olufemi.
Last year, the duo were arraigned by the police for criminal conspiracy and defamation over an investigative report against Hill Crest Agro-Allied, a company owned by Sarah Alade, an Economic Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari.
They both pleaded not guilty.
The investigative report titled: “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is ‘legalized,” was authored by Mr Olufemi in 2018.
Mr Yushau is the Editor of NewsDigest, an Abuja-based online newspaper that commissioned and published the story.
According to the report, Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry, a company owned by Mrs Alade, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), allowed the smoking of cigarettes, as well as Indian hemp by workers within its vicinity.
The report also stated that the firm refused to respond to Mr Olufemi’s inquiry on the situation after he had put several calls and text messages to the industry’s hotlines.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday, the case was adjourned for hearing owing to the inability of the prosecutor to provide witnesses.
According to the Prosecutor, Inspector Nasir, the two witnesses, who are police officers, were sent on an official assignment to get some robbery suspects from Ibadan, Oyo state capital.
“This case was adjourned for hearing today, but regrettably, the two witnesses are absent,” he announced.
Although he could not present the official letter, he said the notification of their absence was communicated to him via a text message sent about 5:00am on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s makes the third adjournment for hearing as the case was ealier adjourned to February 11 after Mr Nasir could not provide the witnesses on January 28.
However, in his reaction, the defendants’ lawyer, Yusuf Suleiman, urged the court to consider the security of Messrs Yushau and Olufemi who travel from outside the state to attend the court sittings.
“Although I don’t doubt the veracity of the excuses given, I will like this court to take note of the nature of the prosecution. This is the third time. The inability to provide the witnesses shows the prosecution is not taking seriously,” Mr Suleiman protested
Meanwhile, the magistrate instructed the prosecutor to provide the witnesses for hearing to commence on March 4, the next adjournment date.