“My opinion has always been that defamation is a civil matter, not something that should be criminalised,” He said.
“In Nwoko’s case with Jaruma, it’s not so much about the law as it is about the weaponisation of the police institution. Nwoko has a very disgraceful history of weaponising the police against anyone who stands up to him.
“This is not the first he has deployed the police as his personal thug. He has done this in his own community where he was accused of land grabbing. He used the police to witchhunt those who accused him instead of filing a suit.
“The police in Nigeria has become a tool in the hand of influential persons that is used for personal vendetta.”
Questioned about the basis for police involvement, Frank Mba, the spokesperson of the police force in Abuja, stated that he had yet to be briefed on the full facts of Ned Nwoko’s case against Jaruma and is in no position to comment on it.
Jaruma’s Arrest in Order?
The justifiability of the arrest of Jaruma for her row with the Nwokos remains a matter for the courts to rule over.
Effiong argued that it raises questions when the police move to arrest one party over a verbal dispute involving two.
“I know Ned Nwoko’s wife and Jaruma engaged in social media banter where they exchanged words. They insulted themselves online. For the police to now take sides and arrest one is preposterous,” the human rights lawyer stated.
“I do not understand why Jaruma was arrested. This kind of madness shouldn’t happen. The fact that a billionaire has money to throw around shouldn’t make the police engage in acts that protect the interest of such a person.
“I saw some of the exchanges between the two parties. Why are the police taking sides in the matter? Jaruma said she paid Regina Daniels N10 million to help her advertise her product and that she didn’t live up to the agreement.
“She called her out on social media and that led to a series of altercations between the two of them, at which point Ned Nwoko came into the picture. Regina, in turn, also made some disparaging comments against Jaruma.
“Should Jaruma also have Regina arrested? Intelligent police officers would have said, ‘well, let’s not get ourselves entangled with this. Let them sort out their issues in a civil court.’ But that’s not what the police do in Nigeria.”
Effiong raised concerns about the jurisdiction of the Abuja area court where the sex therapist was arraigned.
“It’s an area court. I know the FCT high court ruled at least in two cases that that court lacks criminal jurisdiction. If that is the case, and she was arraigned before an area court, then that is a violation of her rights,” the lawyer said.
“When a higher court has made a pronouncement on a matter, an inferior court must abide by it. If that is case, then Jaruma and her lawyer may wish to file a petition against the head of the court who made the order.”
‘Criminal defamation shouldn’t exist in democracy’
Effiong called for the expungement of criminal defamation from Nigerian laws, describing it as a tool for the rich.
“The court of appeal has ruled that the right to freedom of expression includes saying what is offensive,” he added.
“If I can only say something that is pleasant, then what is freedom of expression? Criminal defamation shouldn’t have a place in a democratic society.
“If someone makes a claim and the other feels it’s injurious, the other should file an action in a civil court, not using the mercenary of the state.
“In 80 to 90 percent of cases where people were arrested for the so-called offense of criminal defamation, the petitioners or complainants are politicians, business persons, lawmakers, or some rich people in the society.
“It is a law that is being used by the rich to silence the poor. It’s activated to protect people of influence and that makes nonsense of a society where there should be equality before the law.”
Credit: Inibehe Effiong