Court grants social media influencer, Ijele, N50m bail

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has granted the bail application filed by social media influencer Chizorom Harrison Ofoegbu, popularly known as Ijele.

A report by SaharaReporters said that bail was granted in a ruling delivered by the trial judge, Justice Akintayo Aluko, on Friday morning.

The court mandated Ijele to provide a N50 million bail bond with two sureties, adding that one of the sureties must own a landed property in Lagos while the civil service cadre of the other one must not be lower than level 14.

The Nigeria Police Force had on May 30, 2024, filed an amended three-count criminal charge against Ijele before the court.

The three counts between the Inspector General of Police as the complainant and Chizorom Harrison Ofoegbu as the defendant bordered on conspiracy, criminal defamation, cybercrime and threat to life.

In the charge numbered FHCA/3210/24, the police said the offences violated sections 24(1)(a)(b), (2)(a)(b); 27(1)(a) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act 2015 and sections 373 and 374 of the Criminal Code Act, punishable under Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act.

Also, a magistrate court in Abuja had earlier struck out the case bordering on criminal intimidation, threat to life, cyberstalking, and cyberbullying filed against him.

The Chief Magistrate, Emmanuel Iyanna, while ruling on the bail application filed through his lawyer, struck out the case for lack of jurisdiction.

The judge also ordered the police to arraign the blogger before a competent court of law to enable the defendant to take his plea in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJA) 2015.

Delivering his ruling on the bail application, Iyana ruled that the defendant be arraigned before the Federal High Court, where the prosecution claimed to have filed charges against him.

He added that there was no charge before his court against the blogger and that his court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case.

On Monday, May 30, at the last hearing, Justice Aluko criticised the Nigeria Police Force for what he described as an excessive deployment of legal resources in the cybercrime case against the social media influencer.

The judge expressed dismay at the large number of lawyers as well as junior legal practitioners watching briefs in the case.

The Nigeria Police Force is prosecuting the case on behalf of Evangelist Ebuka Obi’s Zion Prayer Ministry Movement Outreach.

At the re-arraignment of the social media influencer on May 30, the police announced about 10 lawyers appearing in the case.

Amazed at the number of lawyers in the courtroom appearing for the police on the case, Justice Aluko knocked the police for fielding a disproportionately large retinue of lawyers to prosecute the case in what could be implied as a waste of resources and non-efficient utilisation of the lawyers’ time.

Similarly, human rights advocate and former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, knocked the police for fielding such a retinue of lawyers, describing it as unnecessary legal representation.

Sowore, who attended the hearing to support Ijele, expressed dissatisfaction with the police’s decision to assemble many lawyers to appear in a case of human rights violation.

He noted that such a deployment of lawyers in what was supposed to be a civil matter was not just a waste of resources, but a clear sign of the lengths to which the authorities would go to stifle free speech and violate human rights in the country.

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