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Magistrate’s Absence Stalls Hearing On Kemi Olunloyo’s Bail

THE absence of a magistrate, Alatuwo Fubara, at the Port Harcourt Magistrate’s Court on Thursday stalled the hearing on bail application of a blogger, Kemi Olunloyo, and a Port Harcourt-based publisher, Samuel Walson. Olunloyo, the daughter of a former Governor of Oyo State, Omololu Olunloyo, and Walson were arrested for allegedly publishing materials believed to have defamed a frontline cleric, Pastor David Ibiyeomie, of the Salvation Ministries in Port Harcourt. Though they were expected to appear in court in the morning, it was gathered that the absence of Fubara, who was expected to preside over the matter caused them to stay back in prison. The magistrate was said to be unable to come to the court as a result of ill health. While the duo’s lawyers and counsel for Salvation Ministries were present at the court, majority of those at the magistrate court were journalists and bloggers, who came to cover the hearing and also showed solidarity with their colleagues. Olunloyo was arrested in Lagos, while Walson was apprehended in Port Harcourt. They were remanded in the Port Harcourt Prison. Some of their friends told journalists that the suspects were currently having health challenges. The court, however, fixed March 30, 2017, for hearing on the bail application of the journalists. Speaking outside the court premises, the counsel for Olunloyo, Mr. Eugene Meabi, expressed regret that the bail hearing for her client could not take place as scheduled. Meabi said, “It is sad, but we firmly believe that on the 30th of this month, the bail application will go on. It is a situation that we are not happy about. “But we are going to align our position with that of the court. It is a sad development. We will hold on and keep faith. The suspect is ill,” he said. In his remark, Phoebe Fawehinmi, who is the counsel for Walson, explained that her client was diabetic and was looking forward to the hearing on his bail application. She maintained that justice must be done, adding that journalism was not a crime.

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