The office of Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Oyo State has taken over the prosecution of Abraham Joseph, a former staff of Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), facing trial in a defamation case levelled against him before an Iyaganku Magistrates’ Court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Joseph is facing a three-count charge of conspiracy, breach of public peace and publishing defamatory message against Adepoju Olusola, the Director-General of FRIN.
At the court’s proceedings on Wednesday, Aminat Ameen, a lawyer from the office, told the court that the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Oyelow Oyewo, had instructed her to take over prosecution of the case from the police.
Ms Ameen then prayed the court to allow retake of the plea of the defendant.
Responding, counsel to the defendant, Oluwafemi Omotayo, however, did not oppose the fresh arraignment and taking of the plea of the defendant.
The Magistrate, T. B. Oyekanmi, therefore, ordered fresh taking of the plea of the defendant.
The new prosecuting counsel (Ameen) informed the court that the defendant and others now at large conspired with Sahara Reporters, an online medium, to publish a defamatory article against the Director-General of FRIN.
Ms Ameen said the defendant published the said message with the intention of tarnishing the reputation of Mr Olusola and causing a breach of public peace at the institute.
She said the defendant conducted himself in a manner likely to cause breach of peace with the publication of Sahara reporters against Mr Olusola, knowing that the publication was false and could led to civil unrest within and outside the institute.
Ms Ameen said the incident happened on June 29, 2021 at about 2.00 p.m.
She said the offences contravened Sections 517, 375 and 249(d) of the Criminal Code Cap 38 Vol. II Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria, 2000.
The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
The defendant counsel urged the court to allow his client to continue to enjoy the previous bail granted him.
Mr Omotayo said the defendant’s mother and his wife that earlier stood as sureties for him were present in the court.
Magistrate T.B.Oyekanmi ordered that the defendant should continue to enjoy the previous bail conditions.
The magistrate adjourned the case till November 10 for hearing.
NAN reports that the defendant, if found guilty of the charges, would be liable to serve a total of three years and one month imprisonment.
Section 517 of Conspiracy stipulates two years imprisonment, Section 249(d) of breach of public peace stipulates one month imprisonment, while Section 375 of defamation stipulates one year imprisonment.