A businessman, Tonye Okio, spent his Christmas and will start the New Year at a Bayelsa prison for allegedly criticizing the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, on his Facebook account.
Mr. Okio, who was also a former Abuja Liaison officer for Bayelsa State, was arrested on October 26 at his Abuja residence.
He was subsequently blindfolded and driven to Bayelsa by the Special Investigation Bureau, SIB. The police also stripped Mr. Okio of his mobile gadgets and all postings on his Facebook account, ‘Tonye Okio’, about Mr. Dickson was deleted.
Two days after his arrest, the Bayelsa police released a statement that Mr. Okio was arrested for seditious publications against the Bayelsa governor.
“This is to inform the general public and the good people of Bayelsa State in particular that the Bayelsa police command has succeeded in apprehending one Tonye Okio ‘M’ of Otiokpoti, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State for the offence of seditious publications.
“The suspects whose syndicate members are now at large will be appropriately arraigned in court when investigation is complete,” the police said.
The police then detained Mr. Okio for 10 days without trial. Mr. Okio’s lawyer subsequently filed a case at a Bayelsa High Court demanding his fundamental rights be obeyed and he be charged to court if he has indeed done anything wrong.
A day before his fundamental rights case was to be heard, the police on November 5 charged the victim before a Magistrate Court for defamatory publication against the Bayelsa governor.
After taking his plea, the Magistrate Court adjourned the case to November 21 for trial.
When the case came up on November, 21, the magistrate court granted Mr. Okio, an aide to ex-Bayelsa governor, Timipriye Sylva, bail in what a civil society activist described as ‘ridiculous conditions.’
The bail conditions included N5 million with one surety in like sum who must be a permanent secretary in the state and resident within the court’s jurisdiction.
Following the ruling, the victim’s lawyer, Doueyi Fiderikumo, prayed the court that it would be impossible to satisfy the condition because the complainant was the state governor who he suspected must have threatened most permanent secretaries in the state.
Sources close to the Bayelsa State government also told PREMIUM TIMES that no permanent secretary under the state’s employ dare stand as surety for Mr. Okio out of fear of the governor.
Although an application was filed at the Nembe Division of the Bayelsa High Court in the state to demand a variation in the bail conditions, the court reportedly fixed three consecutive days for hearing and was unable sit on any of those days.
A ruling on the review of bail application was slated for December but was again adjourned by the presiding judge, J. Buofini.
On the said date, the judge through the court’s registrar notified counsels that the ruling on the bail review application was not ready; and therefore the case was adjourned till January 20.