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Defamation Case: Detained Activist Seeks Tinubu, Falana, Others’ Intervention



By Praise Chinecherem

South African Right Activist, Comrade Boniface Okonkwo who has been in detention in Anambra State over alleged defamation of character has appealed to President Bola Tinubu’s intervention over his travail.

Okonkwo, a native of Oraifite in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State also solicited intervention of Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, the media and well meaning Nigerians to save him from imminent danger.

He was arrested and detained by the police in the state on January 3, 2024 for allegedly posting on social media that a meter manufacturing company in Oraifite, said to be owned by an Oil Mogul, Sir Emeka Offor, was an empty warehouse.

Addressing newsmen on Wednesday, after the resumed hearing of his matter at the Anambra State High Court Nnewi, Okonkwo described his travail as mere demonstration of power.

According to him, his enemies were after him simply because of his courage and vocality against injustice.

He said, “As a human rights activist, I fight for the vulnerable and speak out against atrocities and injustice. I joined campaign for democracy in 1990 under Beko Ransome Kuti.

“I was given chieftaincy title by the monarch of Ezumeru. That was on December 27 before the January 3 I was arrested.Even though I rejected it, but I was convinced that a prophet is not recognised by his people. I don’t lobby for titles.

“Since then I have been in detention and the man has been boasting that even if I go to appeal, nobody can bail me in Nigeria.

“My current address now is Nnewi prison. If they’re talking about peace, yes I want peace, but not the peace of the graveyard. If you’re talking of peace, I won’t be in detention, for four months.

“I asked again, the alleged defamation of character, is it a capital offence? The same offence that Abuja court granted me bail and I didn’t jump?

“I’m once again, appealing to his excellency, President Ahmed Tinubu, his wife and vice to intervene. I also want Nigeria press, bloggers to help me out from this pathetic situation.

“My kids are all in an international school and I can’t pay their fees. The judge alleged I’m a flight risk, which flight risk? I’m a Nigerian, though resident in South Africa. But I’m an indigenous of Oraifite, where will I run to?

“I’m equally calling on Femi Falana to help out as member of human rights group to ensure I secure my bail so I can be coming to the court from my home.

“Currently, I’m sick and can’t access medicare. The other day I nearly fainted. I was told they want to bring the lab test to me, but I said no. I can afford to pay my bill in the hospital. I can’t be subjected to medication by those who I don’t know.

“I’m still open for peace, but it’s not when I’m still in prison.”

Continuing, Okonkwo’s said, ”I’ve already told the court, which I put in writing that I no longer have confidence in this particular court handling my trial. Unfortunately, the CJ turned it down, insisting the same judge should continue.

“I don’t have any other option. When a defendant said he has lost confidence in the judge, there are other courts which I’m not dictating.

“What is going on is just trampling on my human rights and power show to prove to me that he has connections. I have never had criminal records anywhere. This is not his first time of arresting me. In 2007 and 2013 I was arrested by the same man on alleged defamation of character.

“My passport was withheld for almost a year. I was unable to travel to do my business. It’s just a tragedy.But at the end of the day, the Magistrate court in Abuja threw the case out. It’s on record that they never asked for my international passport. They only requested for a royal father and one guarantor resident in Abuja.

“Yet I never jumped bail. I sued through Femi Falana and the court awarded me 5m against them. The matter was appealed. If Abuja Magistrate court could grant me bail, a high court within my jurisdiction is talking about abscondment. It’s unbelievable what’s going on in Anambra judiciary.

Responding to his elder brother’s out-of-court settlement, Okonkwo said, “As a Pastor, of 30 years calling, my brother, what do you expect him to say? He meant well to sue for peace. Of course, if matter is still in court, and there’s option for peace, why won’t I go for peace?

“You can win matter in court, but you’ll never win peace. But I won’t be in detention seeking for peace. But it will surprise you to know that the life of the same person calling for peace is being tormented.

At the court hearing on Tuesday, the prosecution, led by Alex Ejesieme ( SAN) cross examined a police forensic expert, a Superintendent of Police, who maintained that Okonkwo was the owner of the telephone number that allegedly posted the defamatory publication on the a WhatsApp group that maligned Emeka Offor.

After the defence counsel, Oseleka Osuigwe, cross-examined the police forensic expert, the presiding judge , Justice Vincent Agbata, adjourned the matter to May 21 for further hearing.

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