The court in Akwa Ibom on September 19 struck out the case against
Mary Ekere, the journalist who was thrown into jail for two nights for
taking photos of the state task force officials raiding a shop.
The state attorney general, Uwemedimo Nwoko, intervened in the case
based on a directive from the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, PREMIUM
The task force is under the state government’s Environmental & Waste
Management Agency headed by a man named Prince Ikim.
Ms Ekere was about to walk away from the sanitation court a free woman
after the case against her was struck out, when the magistrate,
Margaret Ekpedoho, suddenly appeared to have had a second thought on
The magistrate asked that the case file be brought back to her. She
ordered Ms Ekere to delete from her phone the photos she took of the
task force officials.
And the journalist, supervised by court officials, did just that.
Journalists who were in the courtroom to show solidarity with Ms Ekere
were shocked by the magistrate’s action.
The magistrate said the raided shop was filled with expired goods. She
questioned the journalist’s rights to take photos of state officials
carrying out “enforcement”.
“If we allow this to go on, it means someday a husband and his wife
could be making love inside their bedroom, and a journalist would go
in to film them,” Mrs Ekpedoho said.
She also commented on the outrage that followed Ms Ekere’s detention
in Uyo prison, saying she gave a satisfactory explanation on the
matter when she was summoned by the state chief judge.
“I have read all kinds of reports on social media about this case, let
me tell you I am not intimidated.
“I was in my house drinking juice, and reading what you people were
writing on Facebook. Journalists, I hope you people are there? Go and
report it, fire on!” the magistrate said.
A human rights group, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa
Ibom State, had accused the magistrate, Mrs Ekpedoho, of giving an
order via a telephone call for Ms Ekere to be thrown into jail, even
when the journalist was not arraigned.
Ekpedoho, apparently reacting to the CLO’s claim, said the task force
sometimes raid places in the night, and that she could come back at
any time to sign a remand order. “I can sign a remand order at any
time of the day, even if it is in the night,” she said in the
The CLO, in a statement signed by its chairman, Franklyn Isong, and
the secretary, Christopher Ekpo, said it condemned “the attitude of
magistrates who are exploiting the haze surrounding the applicable law
governing the administration of criminal justice in Akwa Ibom State to
throw into prison persons accused of committing minor offences or even
offences over which the magistrates do not have jurisdiction”.
The group called on the Akwa Ibom government to “bring out the
Administration of Criminal Justice Law which the Governor, Mr Udom
Emmanuel, signed into law on the 27th day of March 2017”.
The state attorney general, Mr Nwoko, reportedly apologised to Ms
Ekere when he received her and the leaders of the journalists’ union
in his office last week.
Mr Nwoko dissociated the state government from the arrest and
detention of the journalist.