© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Court softens bail conditions for DSS detained journalist Jones Abiri
AN Abuja Magistrate Court at Wuse Zone 2 has lessened the bail conditions for Jones Abiri, a Bayelsa-based journalist and publisher who was detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) for two years without trial.
Counsel to Abiri, Samuel Ogala from Falana and Falana Chambers, told The ICIR that the fresh bail terms involve two sureties. One must be at least a Level-8 civil servant with landed property in Abuja or a senior member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) with a landed property in Abuja. The other surety can be anyone with landed property in Abuja.
Abiri was granted stringent bail conditions when the DSS first charged him to the magistrate court on July 27. He was required to deposit N2 million to the court and provide two sureties who must be senior civil servants on at least Level-15 with residence in Abuja.
He was unable to meet the requirements to regain his freedom, forcing his counsels to apply to the court to vary the bail terms and set him free on self-recognition.
Counsel to the DSS, Jamilu Hamisu, opposed the bail application in a written affidavit, urging the court to discountenance it.
However, counsel to Abiri, Samuel Ogala argued that the offence that the journalist was charged with attracts a maximum of two years in prison. He said even if Abiri is convicted of the alleged offence, he had been detained for more than two years by the DSS.
After adjourning for two hours, the magistrate, Chukwuemeka Newke ruled that Abiri would not be released without any condition because of the offence he was charged with.
Abiri was charged with sending a text message to oil companies, demanding illicit payments. The charge was contrary to earlier claims by the DSS that he was a militant, upon which he was detained without trial.
Hearing on the matter was to commence on Thursday last week but the DSS failed to produce any of its four witnesses, claiming that they travelled abroad. August 16 was subsequently fixed for hearing on the matter.
Abiri was transferred from DSS’s detention to prison in Keffi, Nasarawa State last week, but he was not brought to court today.
His wife and three children who came from Bayelsa felt disappointed that he was not brought to court after more than two years that they have not seen him.
His eldest son, Angatmi Abiri, told The ICIR that they would visit him in prison before going back home on Thursday.
Abiri’s wife, Toboulayefa, told The ICIR that the family had suffered untold hardship since Abiri was taken away by DSS on July 21, 2016.
She said she had borrowed money from people in effort to see her husband in DSS’ detention but she never succeeded.