*Frees Anosikes, says police’s preliminary objection lacks merit
* Berates magistrates’ court for refusing bail when police raised no objection
Apparently responding to an erroneous belief that the police can be used with a willing magistrates’ court for a pre-determined action, an Abuja High Court in Jabi on Monday put a stop to embattled Senator Ikechukwu Obiora’s onslaught against The Daily Times newspaper.
Consequently, Justice Aliyu Yusuf granted bail to the Chairman of the Folio Media Group (FMG), publisher of The Daily Times of Nigeria, Mr. Fidelis Anosike and the Group Managing Director, Mr. Noel Anosike.
Justice Yusuf had granted bail to the Anosikes after listening to their lawyer, Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN) and the prosecuting Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Henry Njoku, who appeared for the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
The Daily Times recalls that a magistrate’ court in Mpape, a suburb of Abuja, had last Tuesday, January 16, 2018, remanded the Anosikes in prison custody, following a charge filed by the police on the prompting of Senator Obiora, who is contesting ownership of The Daily Times of Nigeria since 2010 after he allegedly raised a document claiming ownership of the heritage newspaper.
Ruling on the bail applications of the Anosikes, Justice Yusuf ordered them to provide two sureties that are resident in verifiable addresses in Abuja, saying that the sureties must own landed property. The judge further directed the sureties to surrender their certificates of occupancy of their landed property to the Registrar of the court for custody.
In his 30 minutes ruling, the judge reviewed the submissions, affidavit and exhibits of the applicants and the arguments of Ogunwumiju (SAN) as well as Njoku’s submissions and his preliminary objection.
But judge held that the preliminary objection by the police lacked merit and consequently dismissed the objection.
Regarding the bail applications, the judge held that he was “satisfied that the applicants (the Anosikes) are not going to jump bail.”
He added that once court is satisfied that an accused whose alleged offences are bailable, the court will use its discretion to grant bail because it is a constitutional right.
Berating the magistrate for toying with the liberty of citizens, Justice Yusuf said, “It was the duty of the magistrate to grant the two applicants bail more so when the prosecutor did not object and left it to the court discretion.
The judge further held that, ” Once the court ensures that all requirements for bail are met, it should be granted as bail cannot be used as an act of rascality to punish an accused person. I urge magistrates to use bail to ensure that accused persons attend their trials.
Dismissing police’s preliminary objection, Justice Yusuf held that the objection which raised issues of jurisdiction, irregular papers filed in court, lawyer’s seal and argument that the Anosikes will continue to publish The Daily Times Newspapers are hereby “refused and dismissed.”
According to the judge, the preliminary objection is unnecessary.
Earlier, while moving the application for bail, Ogunwumiju (SAN), had urged the court to set aside the remand order and admit the Anosikes to bail on liberal terms on the grounds that the alleged offences are bailable.
The senior advocate further argued that the matter (ownership of The Daily Times of Nigeria) “is purely a civil case” pending at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Ogunwumiju also argued that the alleged forgery charge against the Anosikes was illegal because eight years ago when this matter came up, the office of Attorney General of Federation (AGF) had advised “that ownership of The Daily Times is a civil matter”.
In his reply, the prosecuting Njoku had urged the court to dismiss the Anosikes’ application for being incompetent.
He further claimed that the Anosikes have committed an offence by publishing The Daily Times Newspapers, arguing that there is a possibility that if the Anosikes are released on bail, they will continue to repeat the offence.
Meanwhile, the Magistrate Court in Mpape had last Tuesday adjourned the matter to February 14.
Andrew Orolua, Abuja