Two staff of Akwa Ibom State University, Eyo Okon Eminue (aged 39) and Iquo Ebong Okon (aged 46), have been arraigned before a chief magistrate court sitting in Uyo on charges of criminal defamation of the character of Professor Eno Ibanga, the acting vice chancellor of the state university.
The duo have, in what appears to be a carefully calculated plan, made countless defamatory publications on facebook against the person of Professor Eno Ibanga.
The said facebook account was created by them in 2015.
The first count preferred against them is "That you, Eyo Eminue "mand Iquo Ebong Okon "f, between 2015 and 2020 in Uyo, Uyo Magisterial District, did conspire among yourselves to effect an unlawful purpose to wit: "creation of a facebook account used in the defamation of the character of Professor Eno Ibanga of the Akwa Ibom State University and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 556 (1) (B) (F) of the Criminal Code Cap. 38 VOL. 2, Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2020.
The second count against them reads, "That you, Eyo Eminue and Iquo Ebong Okon on March 23, 2020 in Uyo Local Government Area in the Uyo Magisterial District did defame the character of one Professor Eno Ibanga by publishing on a facebook page created and run by both of you with the name: "SoS - Akwa Ibom State University Government, for everyone to read the following statement.
Ã‹mperor of AKSU, you intend to embezzle the money meant to be used in paying for hazard for the staff of AKSU.
The duo are also quoted as speaking in such derogatory terms against the vice chancellor (VC) as follows: "We are waiting for you "Thief knowing same to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 383 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 384 of the Criminal Code Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2020.
The two accused persons were docked and the charge read over to them at about 11:24 am.
Eyo Eminue is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) while Iquo Ebong Okon is an administrative staff, Directorate of Information, Office of the Vice Chancellor, AKSU.
The facebook account was created in 2015 shortly after the commencement of the first tenure of Professor Eno Ibanaga as vice chancellor of the university.
In the said account, the names of the founders and administrators have been deliberately kept away or hidden from public view. The account has been running consistently with publications deliberately made to malign and disparage the integrity of the vice chancellor.
The attention of the vice chancellor was however drawn to the publications by a friend, following which a petition was written to the police with a request that the police should investigate to uncover the persons behind the defamatory facebook account.
Upon a discreet investigation by the police with the aid of top-notch ICT experts, the identities of Eyo and Iquo were uncovered and the duo were invited to report at the police headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia.
At the police headquarters, they made useful statements and admitted creating and running the defamatory facebook account.
In his reaction, Ekemini Udim Esq - counsel for Professor Eno Ibanga, informed that criminal defamation of character is a serious issue in law.
He decried the rising wave of defamation on facebook and admonished facebook users to use the platform with responsibility.
Other lawyers who were present in court also decried the rise in defamation of citizens on facebook and other social media platform.
The case has been adjourned to June 8, 2020, for continuation of trial.
They were however granted bail on trials namely: N3 million each and one surety each in like sum.
"The sureties must be civil servants of Grade Level 15 and above and must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court.
They must also swear to affidavit of means and file same to court.
They must also submit passport photographs and veritable means of identification such as national identity cards or international passports.
The court ordered that the duo should be remanded in police custody pending when they are able to fulfil the terms of bail.