The federal government on Tuesday amended the charges against Leadership Newspaper journalists, accused of forging a presidential directive, to a six-count of felony.
The journalists were initially detained by the police for refusing to name their sources for a story alleging a presidential attempt to botch the merger of some opposition parties in Nigeria.
The journalists, Tony Amokeoda, Chibuzor Ukaibe, and Taiwo Omilani, who is now at large, were on Monday charged before a Federal High Court Abuja by the Federal Government for allegedly forging a document titled ‘Presidential Directive’ which had the seal of the office the President of Nigeria.
The journalists had been taken to court earlier; but their counsel, Samuel Ogala, had argued that the journalists were hurriedly brought to court even without diligent prosecution.
The presiding judge adjourned the case on the grounds that the prosecution had not served the suspects with the necessary papers.
In the amended six-count charge, the federal government accused the defendants of committing felony and forgery.
One of the charges accused the journalists and the newspaper of forging a “document having the presidential seal published on the front page of Leadership Newspaper on April 3, all punishable under Section 516; 467; 467 (1) (b); 468 of the Criminal Code Act Cap ‘C’ 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”.
The accused are to be represented by Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Festus Keyamo; and Samuel Ogala.
Nigerians and Civil Society Groups had condemned the way the federal government reacted to the story by arresting the journalists without prompt trial. Leadership Newspapers insists it stands by its report.