Nigerian activist sentenced to seven years in prison for ‘falsely’ accusing public official of corruption
A Nigerian activist has been jailed for seven years for falsely accusing a public official of corruption.
Ibrahim Wala, popularly known as IG Wala, was jailed on Wednesday by Judge Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He was convicted of falsely accusing the head of a pilgrimage commission of corruption and leading a demonstration against the official.
Judge Halilu found Mr. Wala guilty of three of the four charges brought against him by the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation.
The three counts for which he was convicted include unlawful assembly, public incitement and criminal defamation.
The judge, however, dismissed the charge of criminal intimidation for lack of merit.
The activist was arrested following a petition filed by the chairman of the Nigerian National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mukhtar.
In the petition, Mr Mukhtar alleged that Mr Wala used his Facebook page to incite the public against him and defame his integrity and that of the commission he heads.
Accused of illegal assembly, Mr. Wala was found guilty of using his organization, Citizens Action To Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), to form an illegal assembly. The judge ruled that the organization was not registered.
The judge said the prosecution “was able to establish the offense of unlawful assembly.”
He therefore sentenced him to seven years in prison for the offense.
The judge also found Mr. Wala guilty of public incitement, an offense contrary to article 114 of the penal code which deals with disturbing public order.
He sentenced him to three years in prison for the offense.
Mr. Yusuf also agreed with the charge that Mr. Wala had criminally defamed Mr. Mukhtar after he alleged that the NAHCON boss “made 3 billion naira” from Hajj operations in 2017.
The judge said Mr Wala wrote on his Facebook page that he had documents to prove the allegation.
He said, however, that the activist did not provide the document proving his allegations in court.
“Where is the document proving 3 billion naira drawn up by the chairman of the hajj commission?”
“Why did the accused not produce such a document now that he has been taken to court?” Said the judge.
He said that by his inability to provide relevant documents to prove his “huge allegations”, Mr. Wala “made the prosecution case less burdensome.”
The judge sentenced him to two years in prison for criminal defamation.
Simultaneous prison conditions
The judge also said that all sentences would be served simultaneously; which means the convict would serve seven years in prison unless the decision is overturned by an appeals court.
Mr. Wala is due to serve his sentence in Suleja prison.
Mr. Wala has led protests against issues such as corruption and human rights abuses in several parts of the country.
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