Hemp story: Buhari’s adviser demands N500m from two young investigative journalists

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The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Finance and Economy, Ms. Sarah Alade, has demanded the sum of N500 million from two young award-winning investigative journalists, Messrs Alfred Olufemi (21years) and Gidado Yushau (23 years), over an exclusive report on hemp smoking published in NewsDigest, Abuja-based online newspaper, on May 19, 2018.

The investigative report titled: “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is ‘legalized,” was authored by Alfred, an award-winning Campus Journalist during his days as a student reporter at Obafemi Awolowo University and published by Gidado, the Editor of the NewsDigest.

According to the report, Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry, one of the groups of companies owned by the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ms Alade, tolerated the smoking of cigarettes, as well as Indian hemp by workers within its vicinity.

The report also stated that the industry refused to respond to Mr Olufemi’s inquiry on the disturbing situation after he had put several calls and text messages to the industry’s hotlines.

Before now, the two defendants were arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Ilorin Metropolis for Criminal conspiracy and defamation against Sections 97 and 192 of the penal code.

The duo pleaded not guilty.

Following the bail application made by defence counsel, Mr. Usman Belgore, the Chief Magistrate of the Court, Magistrate A.O Muhammed released the defendants on grounds of recognition and that they are innocent until proven otherwise.

The conditions of bail include two sureties each who are relatives of the defendants with a bail bond of N200,000.

The case was adjourned for hearing till January 13, 2020. However, when the matter was called on Monday, the prosecutor could not provide his witness and as such, the Magistrate further adjourned till January 28.

However, the special adviser’s company then proceeded to file a fresh case against the award-winning journalists.

Recall that the police in the promoting of the adviser and her company, had abducted the webmaster of the publication, Adebowale Adekoya, in Ikorodu, Lagos and taken him to Ilorin, where he was illegally for about two weeks.

He was then taken to Abuja where Gidado was  arrested.

Both of them were then taken to Ilorin but Debo’s name was dropped from the matter.

Till date no apology or compensation has been given to Debo for wrongful arrest and psychological torture.

In the course of.hinting for Debo, who was targeted because his name was attached to the website, the police had monitored his Glo line and then traced two of his friends to their homes.

It was in the course of this that one of Debo’s friends balked and led the policemen to set a trap for him at Ikorodu Garage, where he was forcibly arrested and taken to Ilorin.

Fresh case

In addition, after the adjournment on Monday, the two journalists were served with writ of summons by the legal practitioner of Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries Limited. In the summon obtained by PRNigeria, the company demanded the sum of N500 million from the duo.

They also sought an order compelling the defendants to retract and delete the links of the report from their platform and ensure the deletion of same from all platforms on the internet that have copied it.

Besides, Hillcrest is asking for an apology on their online news platform and in two national dailies.