Nigerian authorities detained journalist Oloye Ayodele Samuel on November 28, 2022, as part of a defamation case filed by a local business.
Samuel is the CEO and publisher of Taraba Truth & Facts, a newspaper and news website based in Jalingo, the capital of Nigeria’s northern state of Taraba, according to Ahmed Umar, the paper’s director of operations, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Samuel is also the CEO of the privately owned radio news broadcaster Rock FM.
On November 25, 2022, Samuel responded to a police request to present himself at the police headquarters in Jalingo for questioning, according to Umar, who accompanied Samuel to the station, and a report by privately owned news website Sahara Reporters. After waiting at the station for six hours, police showed the journalists a copy of a petition accusing Samuel of defamation and injurious falsehood, written by the staff of the privately owned company Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited, and signed by the Taraba state Attorney General Sam Adda.
The petition was in response to a September 16 Taraba Truth & Facts report, which alleged that Taraba Governor Darious Dickson Ishaku sold government assets and state-owned facilities, including the beverage company, to close associates at discounted prices, according to Umar and a copy of that report posted to Facebook.
Samuel posted on Taraba Truth & Fact’s Facebook page that authorities believed the reports about the privatization of public assets were defamatory and “against the governor.”
On November 28, police requested Samuel’s presence at the Jalingo station and detained him. A local magistrate court then charged Samuel with defamation and injurious falsehood, according to Umar, who accompanied the journalist to the station and court, the charge sheet reviewed by CPJ, and news reports.
If found guilty, Samuel faces two years imprisonment and an unspecified fine under Sections 392 and 393 of the Nigerian penal code.
The court set terms for Samuel’s bail, but those terms were overruled on November 30, when Samuel’s case was transferred to a judge at the Taraba State High Court, according to Umar and a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CPJ by phone and requested anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
He remained in detention at the Taraba state police headquarters as of December 1, according to Umar.
Reached by phone, Ishaku’s media aide, Bala Dan Abu, denied knowledge of Samuel’s case and referred CPJ to the police. A spokesperson for the state police command, Abdullahi Usman, told CPJ by phone on December 1 that the case was being handled by the state’s Ministry of Justice.
Adda declined CPJ’s request for comment as the matter was before a court.