The Nigerian Police has secretly commenced the trial of Samuel Ogundipe, a journalist with Premium Times, on Wednesday, and obtained an order to detain him for five more days.
He was also denied access to legal representation.
He was arraigned at a Magistrate Court in Kubwa on Wednesday afternoon, and charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document.
Staff of the online newspaper, alongside the company’s lawyer, had visited Ogundipe, where he is being detained by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Abuja, and he was allowed a visit at 10am.
They also received a briefing from Sani Ahmadu, the Deputy Commissioner of Police handling the supposed investigation.
The company lawyer and other staff present were, however, asked to leave the facility and return at 4p.m, despite a protest by the lawyer, and they were promised that no action would be taken until they returned.
Ogundipe has been repeatedly asked to name his source for a story as a condition for his release.
However, around 4p.m., Musikilu Mojeed, editor of the newspaper received a call from the court, and it was realised that the journalist had been secretly tried at the Kubwa Magistrate Court. Ogundipe’s requests to the Police to have his lawyers present were turned down.
A report by Premium Times stated: “When the charge was brought before the magistrate, there was no mention that Mr Ogundipe works as a journalist. The police carefully avoided mentioning that, only telling the magistrate he was being charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document.
“The magistrate then gave an order that he be detained for five more days, till August 20. It was the magistrate who ordered that he be allowed to make a call while within the court premises. It was the phone of a court official that Mr Ogundipe used to contact his editor-in-chief.”
According to what Ogundipe told his employers, the police accused him of violating sections 352, 288 and 319 of the penal code, even though the online newspaper stated that a “review of the sections, however, indicate that they are not related to the charges, but are about sexual assault and attempted murder.