AKSU Staff Arraigned for Character Defamation

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Two members of staff of Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU), Eyo Okon Eminue, aged 39 and Iquo Ebong Okon, aged 46; were on Wednesday, April 29, arraigned before the Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on charges of criminal defamation of the character of Prof. Eno Ibanga, Acting Vice Chancellor of the Akwa Ibom State.

The duo had, in what appears to be a carefully calculated plan, made countless defamatory publications on Facebook against the person of Prof. Eno Ibanga.

The said Facebook account was created by them in 2015.

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Their offence account to the charge pressed against them was the “creation of a Facebook account used in the defamation of the character of Prof. Eno Ibanga of the Akwa Ibom State University and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 556 (1) (b) (f) of the Criminal Code Cap. 38 Vol. 2, Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2020”.

The second count against them reads, “That you, Eyo Eminue and Iquo Ebong Okon on the 23rd day of March, 2020 in Uyo Local Government Area in the Uyo Magisterial District did defame the character of one Prof. Eno Ibanga by publishing on a Facebook page created and run by both of you with the name: “SOS – Akwa Ibom State University/Government”.

The charge went further to accuse the duo of using the account on facebook to publish an accusation against the Prof Ibanga in the following format, “Breaking News – COVID 19 Cases Discovered in Akwa Ibom State University; Prof. Eno Ibanga, against the directive of the Federal Government plans to go on with the convocation ceremony thereby putting staff at risk of contracting COVID 19” knowing same to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 383 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 384 of the Criminal Code, Cap. 38 Vol. 2, Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000.

The third count against the duo reads, “That you, Eyo Eminue and Iquo Ebong Okon on the 20th day of March, 2020 did defame the character of one Prof. Eno Ibanga by publishing on a Facebook page created and run by both of you with the name: “SOS – Akwa Ibom State University/Government” for everyone to read the following statement: “Prof. Eno Ibanga, the Emperor has been CORONERED – The convocation ceremony which he intended to use to steal his last loot and also tell lies … Farewell to a nasty, vindictive, wicked, heartless, shameless, most corrupt and the worst VC AKSU has ever produced” knowing same to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 383 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 384 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2000.

That you, Eyo Eminue and Iquo Ebong Okon on the 20th day of March, 2020 did defame the character of one Prof. Eno Ibanga by publishing on a Facebook page created and run by both of you with the name: “SOS – Akwa Ibom State University/Government” for everyone to read the following statement: “Emperor of AKSU, you intend to embezzle the money meant to be used in paying for hazard for the staff of AKSU.

The duo was also quoted as speaking in such derogatory terms against the Vice chancellor as follows, “We are waiting for you. Thief!” knowing same to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 383 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 384 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2000.”

The two accused persons were docked and the charge read over to them.

Eyo Eminue is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Akwa Ibom State University while Iquo Ebong Okon is an Administrative Staff, Directorate of Information, Office of the Vice Chancellor, Akwa Ibom State University.

The Facebook account was created in 2015 shortly after the commencement of the first tenure of Prof. Eno Ibanga as Vice Chancellor of the University. In the said account, the names of the founders and administrators have been deliberately kept away or hidden from public view. The account has been running consistently with publications deliberately made to malign and disparage the integrity if the Vice Chancellor.

The attention of the Vice Chancellor was however drawn to the publications by a friend, following which a petition was written to the police with a request that the police should investigate to uncover the persons behind the defamatory Facebook account.

Upon a discreet investigation by the police with the aid of top-notch ICT experts, the identities of Eyo and Iquo were uncovered and the duo invited to report at the police headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia. At the police headquarters, they made useful statements and admitted creating and running the defamatory Facebook account.

When asked for his reaction, Ekemini Udim, Esq – counsel for Prof. Eno Ibanga informed pressmen that Criminal defamation of character is a serious issue in law. He decried the rising wave of defamation on Facebook and admonished Facebook users to use the platform with responsibility.

Other lawyers who were present in court also decried the rise in defamation of citizens on Facebook and other social media platforms.

The case has been adjourned to 8th June, 2020 for continuation of trial.

They were however granted bail on terms namely: 3 million Naira each and one surety each in like sum.

“The sureties must be civil servants of grade level 15 and above and must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court.

They must also swear to affidavit of means and file same in court. They must also submit passport photographs and verifiable means of identification such as national identity cards or international passports.

The court ordered that the duo be remanded in police custody pending when they are able to fulfill the terms of bail.