Ibrahim Garba Wala, popular human rights activist and convener of the Citizens Action To Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), has filed a Notice of Appeal at the Court of Appeal in Abuja to challenge the "unreasonable" 12-year prison sentence without an option of fine handed to him by Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Wala’s conviction followed a petition filed by Labaran Magaji, prosecution counsel, on behalf of the Executive Chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Malam Abdullahi Muhammad, on April 4.
Muhammad alleged that Wala used his Facebook page to incite the public against him and defame him and that of the NAHCON.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Yusuf Halilu found Wala guilty on three of the four-count charge filed against him by Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN)
The three charges for which he was found guilty are unlawful assembly, public incitement and criminal defamation of character.
The case has drawn widespread criticism by foreign and local pro-democracy campaigners who accuse the judiciary and political elite of stifling free speech.
The appeal with Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/096/2018 is filed on six grounds: “The Learned Trial Judge erred in law by convicting the Appellant for the offences of Management or Membership of unlawful society, Public incitement and Defamation when the prosecution woefully failed to prove the ingredients of the above offences.
“The Learned Trial Judge erred in Law when the court assumed jurisdiction to entertain counts 4 and 5 in CHARGE NO: FCT/HC/CR/096/2018 despite the fact that the prosecuting authority is not 'a person aggrieved' as envisaged under Section 391 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 LFN 1990applicable to the Federal Capital Territory.
“The Learned Trial Judge erred in the law when he found that the prosecution have proved the offence of Defamation in spite of the absence of the evidence of third parties showing that they read the publication and by the virtue of the publication they hold nominal complaints in odium.
“The Learned trial Judge erred in law when he found that the prosecution have proved the offence of public incitement inspite of the absence of the evidence of third parties showing that the appellant did an act intending to cause or which was likely to cause breach of the peace or disturb the public peace.
“The Learned Trial Judge erred in Law and thereby exceeded its jurisdiction by sentencing the Appellant to the maximum punishment of the offences to wit, Management or Membership of unlawful society contrary to Section 97b of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 LFN 1990 applicable to the Federal Capital Territory, Public Incitement contrary to section 114 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 LFN 1990 applicable to the Federal Capital Territory and Defamation contrary to section 391 of The Penal Code Act Cap 532 LFN 1990 applicable to the Federal Capital Territory thereby causing a miscarriage of Justice.
“Therefore the verdict is unreasonable or cannot be supported having regards to the evidence.”