Judge Rebukes Nigeria Police for Overwhelming Legal Presence in Cybercrime Case Against Ijele, Sowore Voice Concerns Over Unfair Ruling

In a recent court session at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, Justice Akintayo Aluko voiced concern over what he deemed an excessive use of legal resources by the Nigeria Police Force in the ongoing cybercrime case against social media influencer Chizorom Harrison Ofoegbu, better known as Ijele.

The case, which is being prosecuted on behalf of Evangelist Ebuka Obi’s Zion Prayer Ministry Movement Outreach, a non-denominational prayer ministry founded in 2009, saw the judge expressed dismay at the large number of lawyers as well as junior legal practitioners watching briefs in the case.

The Judge criticized the police for fielding such a large group of lawyers, implying that it could be considered a waste of resources and an inefficient use of the legal practitioners’ time.

However, the Nigeria Police Force filed an amended three-count criminal charge before the Federal High Court in Lagos State. The charges against Ijele include conspiracy, criminal defamation, cybercrime, and threats to life. This development occurs amidst criticism from Justice Akintayo Aluko, who has expressed concern over the excessive deployment of legal resources by the police in the case.

In the charge numbered FHCA/3210/24, the police said the offences violate sections 24(1)(a)(b), (2)(a)(b); 27(1)(a) of Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act 2015 and sections 373 and 374 of the Criminal Code Act, Punishable under section 375 of the Criminal Code Act.

Count 1 reads: “That you Chizorom Harrison Ofoegbu ‘M’ sometime in February 2024 at Oshodi Lagos State within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court did commit an illegal act to wit: Conspiracy, when you Chizorom Harrison Ofoegbu and others now at large criminally conspired within yourselves, used your social media handle ‘The King of the game’ knowing same to be false made a vexatious and obnoxious online publication against the person of Evang. Ebuka Obi the spiritual director of Zion Movement Outreach Ministry situated in Lagos purporting him to be performing fake, arranged miracles and deceiving members of the public which attracted several views from third parties with the intention to cause hatred and damage to the reputation of Evang. Ebuka Obi and his Ministry before the right thinking members of the Public and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(1)(a) of Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act 2015.”

Reacting to this, human rights activist and the convener of the Revolutionnow movement, Omoyele Sowore, criticized the handling of the case in an overcrowded courtroom and denounced the judge’s unfair ruling.

Having observed the proceedings first-hand, Sowore took to his X page, detailed the shocking conditions at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, where Ijele faced questionable charges amidst a sea of spectators and lawyers.

Sowore decried the judge’s disregard for due process, citing instances of denied bail and failure to follow established legal precedent. Pointing to the stark contrast between the treatment of high-profile activists like Ijele and the preferential handling of terrorists, Sowore highlighted the injustice pervading Nigeria’s judicial system.

“At the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, today to witness the arraignment of CHIZOROM HARRISON OFOEGBU, also known as “@IjeleSpeaks2” for cybercrime allegedly against one Evangelist Ebuka Obi.

“In recent times, I have never seen such an egregious gang up against the right of a single individual such as this.

“The very filthy, congested, dingy, and unsafe courtroom of Justice Aluko at the premises of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi-Lagos was jam-packed with lawyers who came to participate in a “watching brief” capacity; they were not less than twenty.”, he wrote.

In a surprising turn of events, Sowore made it known that the initial charges against Ijele were withdrawn by the prosecution during the court appearance.

“@IjeleSpeaks2 was represented by Femi Falana (SAN), and when @policeng were to arraign him, they suddenly withdrew their old charges and read some ridiculous charges relating to cybercrime against this so-called man of God; it was cringeworthy to hear the laughable and useless charges.

“I sat there, wondering why the Judge would entertain such charges, let alone send @IjeleSpeaks to a correctional center for another week so that he could hear a bail application after rejecting Falana’s oral bail application where he said to the just in clear language that a bail application needed not to be written per Court of Appeal ruling on the matter in FRN v. MKO Abiola. The judge said since the prosecutors had started the allegations were weighty he must give them time to counter a bail application in writing.
It was just a sad and terrible sight.” , he added.

Ijele was detained by the Nigeria Police Force following his allegations against Evangelist Ebuka Obi. Ijele, a popular social media influencer, had publicly denounced the evangelist as a liar and called for his arrest, claiming that Obi had transformed his religious institution into a business enterprise.

Ijele’s viral post caught the attention of the authorities, leading to his detention by the Nigerian police.


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