By Jonathan Ugbal
Listen To The Report
The Zone 6 Command of the Nigerian Police Force on Monday arrested Mr. Victor Ita, a journalist with over 20 years of experience over a defamation petition written by the former federal lawmaker, Senator Bassey Otu.
Mr. Ita who publishes CrossRiverTimes, an online newspaper, has worked with the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, Silverbird Television, and FAD FM.
He told this reporter in a telephone interview that the petition by Mr. Otu only mentioned his moniker, “Viruz” and it was over an article shared to a WhatsApp group, “CrossRiverTimes” which he serves as one of the administrators.
“Someone wrote an article and it was published on CalabarBlog. The link was then shared to CrossRiverTimes WhatsApp group which Barr. Ekpenyong Akiba usually shares things as well. A petition was then written on defamation,” Mr. Ita said.
Mr. Ekpenyong, a longstanding ally of Senator Otu is said to have written the petition on his behalf and followed the Policemen to arrest Mr. Ita.
Ita continued: “My name, Victor Ekpo Ita was not even written on the petition I was shown after my arrest. What they wrote there was ‘Virus’ and they claimed that my arrest was because the person who shared it to the WhatsApp group was working for Silverbird which I left long ago.”
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 forbids the Police from arresting someone instead of another.
However, the arrest was led by one Supol Raphael Ebi whose line has been switched off after this reporter got ahold of it.
Mr. Otu is nursing an ambition to be Governor in 2023. And, Mr. Ita said he was even pressured to implicate another aspirant due to his political affiliation.
He later transferred NGN100,000 to another female Police officer, Effiom Akon David as “bail.”
Again, the ACJA 2015 says administrative bail is free and prevents law enforcement agents from keeping a suspect in custody beyond 24 hours without an order of Court.
“I made the transfer to them among other cash they took from me because I had other things to pursue,” Ita said, adding that his activities for the day were cut short.
How It Began
One David Takon wrote an article weeks ago in the capacity of the Director-General of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Vanguard wherein he questioned claims attributed to Senator Otu that the PDP was begging him to defect from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and contest for governorship on the platform of the PDP.
At press time, CrossRiverWatch could not verify whether Mr. Otu made such claims.
Mr. David claimed that Mr. Otu said the PDP was offering him N2 Billion. The writer went ahead to label Mr. Otu a failure and accused him of snatching his mentor’s wife. Furthermore, the writer claimed that some of the vehicles he had given out for an empowerment scheme were retrieved. It was published on CalabarBlog on Wednesday, March 14, 2022, and shared to CrossRiverTimes as earlier stated.
Mr. Otu wrote a rejoinder which CalabarBlog also published. But, they petitioned and Mr. Hope Obeten, publisher of CalabarBlog told CrossRiverWatch that he was invited by the Police.
“I went there in the company of my lawyer and they showed me the petition which claimed that David Takon does not exist,” Mr. Obeten told CrossRiverWatch.
He said no money was collected from him. However, CalabarBlog has since unpublished the article following the advice of its lawyers, a source said.
Furthermore, the online newspaper stated an apology to the former lawmaker.
“CalabarBlog has taken full responsibility for the insults and damage done to the person of the Distinguished Senator Prince Otu and we deeply apologize. It was an error on our part that was completely avoidable,” read the statement signed by Obeten Godfrey.
Efforts to reach the known telephone line of Senator Otu have been futile. Calls kept dropping with the message, “line busy,” even at the time of going to press.
Also, Truecaller, a caller identity application kept displaying his status as “red” which means he is on a “call.”
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