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U.S. GRANTS ASYLUM TO NIGERIAN JOURNALIST OHIMAI AMAIZE

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Ohimai Amaize, a former AIT presenter who fled Nigeria last year, has been granted asylum in the United States, Premium Times reports.

The journalist confirmed the development to Premium Times in an e-mail Sunday. “I have just received notice of my asylum approval,” he said.

Mr Amaize, 35, departed Abuja in June 2019 following claims he was being trailed by Nigerian security agents with intention to arrest and charge him for treason and incitement. The alleged plots stemmed from a confrontation between the government and AIT and its flagship morning show, ‘Kakaaki Social’, a user-generated programme which Mr Amaize was anchoring at the time.

The Nigerian broadcast stations regulator, NBC, shut down the station for about 24 hours, alleging multiple infractions on federal guidelines for broadcasters. Although the station was reopened following a court order, its headquarters in Abuja was besieged by armed officers from the State Security Service, SSS.

Mr Amaize criticised the guidelines as arbitrary and repressive and subsequently fled to New York on June 23, citing threats to his safety by the SSS, police and other state agents and supporters. His wife, an Abuja-based fashion designer, also left Nigeria a few weeks later to join him.

American government grants asylum to individuals who have been able to substantiate claims of persecution in their home country, especially where such attacks are linked to their political opinion, religious beliefs and other fundamental rights.

“My forced exit from Nigeria last year has been a very traumatising experience for me and my family,” Mr Amaize told Premium Times. “I am very happy and I thank God for this development.”

Before joining AIT in 2018, Mr Amaize was amongst top opposition voices highly critical of the Buhari administration. He worked previously as a media consultant for the Peoples Democratic Party, Nigeria’s erstwhile ruling party which Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress defeated during the 2015 elections.

Although Mr Amaize was never arrested, he alleged regular threats to his life. He also frequently cited several other critics and journalists who were arrested and charged under repressive laws.

“I can now live and carry on with my life without the fear of being persecuted by the Muhammadu Buhari regime for the opinions that I express or the work that I do as a journalist,” Mr Amaize said. “Of course, I miss Nigeria so much because there is no place like home.”

Media rights advocates quickly saw Mr Amaize’s asylum breakthrough as a positive development for press freedom.

“This is a victory for press freedom, one that rekindles the hope of all defenders of civil liberties across the world,” Martin Obono, an Abuja-based rights activist, told PREMIUM TIMES. “We congratulate Mr Amaize and his family.”

Mr Obono said the expeditious manner Mr Amaize received asylum from the U.S. should put the Nigerian government on the notice that America and other nations of the free world would not tolerate any acts that stifle freedom.

“Asylum is usually a long and cumbersome process that could take years for an average seeker,” Mr Obono said. “That Mr Ohimai was able to receive it within a short period should evoke introspection of a government that is capable of reading signs from the international community.”

While wishing Nigeria a prosperous future, Mr Amaize appreciated those who supported him, especially AIT, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights First and his American attorneys Davis Polk and Wardwell LLP.

“I hope that in the not too distant future, Nigeria will return to a true democracy where a free press, freedom of expression and the rule of law are respected”, he said.

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Four Suspects Arrested In Connection With The Murder Of Bauchi Lawmaker, Musa Mante

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The Bauchi State Police has arrested four suspects in connection with the murder of a member of the State House of Assembly representing Baraza Dass constituency, Musa Mante Baraza.

Recall that the lawmaker was killed by the gunmen on August 13, 2020, at his residence in Dass. The gunmen invaded his house, shot him dead, and thereafter abducted two of his wives and his one-year-old son.

Spokesperson of the Command, DSP Ahmed Mohammed Wakil, who confirmed the development on Friday, December 4, when he paraded the suspects alongside others at the command Headquarters, said they were arrested on November 14.

“On 14/11/2020 at about 0104hrs one Abdulrazak Mohammed ‘m’ aged 29yrs, Abdulmumini Umar ‘m’ 29yrs, Yusuf Mohammed ‘m’ aged 18yrs and Mas’ud Hassan ‘m’ aged 22yrs all of Bauchi town, were arrested in connection to the case of gruesome killing of Hon. Musa Mantai Baraza ‘m’ member representing Dass Constituency, Dass L.G.A Bauchi State, were his two wives and one daughter named; (1) Rashida mal. Musa ‘f’ aged 35yrs (2) Rahina Mal. Musa ‘f’ aged 30yrs and (3) Khausar Mal. Musa ‘f’ aged 18months were kidnapped and taken to unknown destination,” said DSP Wakil.

“They robbed him eight different phones all valued at three hundred thousand naira (N300,000:00k) thereafter shot him dead. On receipt of the report a joint operation between IRT and Command detectives swung into action rescued the victims and arrested the above-mentioned suspects. During investigation Hon. Musa’s phone Tecno Handset with MTN sim card was recovered from their possession.” he added.

Wakil said investigation is still in progress after which the suspects will be charged to court for prosecution and possible conviction.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police Bauchi State Police Command CP Lawan Tanko Jimeta, has directed all suspects to be profiled and charged to court.

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Appeal Court upholds death sentence on woman who stabbed husband to death

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An Appeal Court in Abuja has dismissed the appeal filed by Maryam Sanda for lacking in merit.

The court upheld the judgement by the FCT High Court which had sentenced her to death by hanging for killing her husband, Bilyaminu Bello, son of the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Bello,

Her Counsel, Joe Gadzama SAN, however, said they are heading to the supreme court, while Counsel to Police, James Idachaba, praised the judgement, adding that they are also ready to meet them at the apex court.

In his two-hour Judgement, Presiding Judge, Justice Steven Adah, held that the court is duty-bound to do justice according to law and not sentiments.

The judge held that the law does not leave room for irregularities, adding that parties must conduct criminal trials according to the law.

Under Section 221 of the penal code, the court held that the trial judge was right in his verdict, stressing that the offence is punishable by death.

The court further held that it was not in doubt that Sanda killed her husband, and has no reason to set aside the verdict of the lower court.

The Appeal court also noted that there was evidence that Maryam murdered her husband during a fight after she saw a nude picture on his phone, and she had threatened him, adding that it could be ruled as premeditated murder.

Maryam Sanda was on January 27 found guilty of stabbing her husband to death at their Abuja residence

Justice Yusuf Halilu of the FCT High Court gave the sentence in Abuja while delivering judgment on the protracted trial of Missus Sanda.

He sentenced Sanda after she was convicted for stabbing late Bilyaminu to death, son of former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Haliru Bello.

Upon her conviction by the judge, Sanda broke down in tears and wept uncontrollably.

Not satisfied with the ruling, she had approached the appellate court in Abuja to challenge the decision of the FCT High Court.

In the Notice of Appeal predicated on twenty grounds, Sanda prayed the appellate court to set aside the verdict of the lower court and acquit her.

She claimed that the trial judge, Justice Halilu was tainted by bias and prejudices.

According to the appellant, this led to the denial of her right to a fair hearing and her consequent conviction based on circumstantial evidence.

Sanda alleged that the judge gave the verdict despite the reasonable doubt that was created by evidence of witnesses, lack of confessional statement, absence of murder weapon, lack of corroboration of evidence by two or more witnesses, and lack of autopsy report to determine the true cause of her husband’s death.

She insisted that the judgment of the trial court was complete “a miscarriage of justice.”

The appellant also pointed to the failure of the trial judge to rule, one way or the other, on her preliminary objection, challenging the charge preferred against her and the jurisdiction of the court as evidence of bias and a denial of her right to fair hearing as constitutionally guaranteed.

She, therefore, asked the Court of Appeal to allow her prayers and set aside her conviction and sentence and subsequently acquit her.

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