31 October 2019
The Nigeria police on Tuesday withdrew terrorism charges against Joseph Odok, a lawyer and a known critic of Cross River governor, Ben Ayade.
The prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba, in a motion filed before the Federal High Court, Calabar, said they were withdrawing the charges because the police headquarters in Abuja want Mr Odok and the case transferred to them for a thorough investigation.
The judge, Simon Amobeda, questioned the authority of the prosecution counsel to withdraw the charges against Mr Odok, saying it is only the attorney general of the federation who has such powers.
The court will rule on the motion on November 6.
Mr Odok is also charged with cybercrime for allegedly accusing the chief of staff to Mr Ayade of being a cultist.
He had pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge and was remanded in the Calabar prison.
“What they call terrorism, according to the prosecution counsel, is that he incited his community people against another community,” Mr Odok’s lawyer, Oliver Osang, told PREMIUM TIMES. “The charges are phantom charges, they are politically motivated.”
The lawyer was arrested on September 26 in Abuja and taken to Calabar by road.
His Facebook page contains critical remarks on Mr Ayade.
In one of his posts on the social media site in September, Mr Odok described the governor as a ‘joker’.
"Ayade keep getting it wrong with lofty projects. Why talk of Spaghetti flyover when you have not maintained or completed a single road project from your first administration?
“A man that can’t complete a single road keeps talking Super High Way, Deep Sea Port and now Spaghetti flyover. This joke is getting out of hands,” he wrote on Facebook.
Mr Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, had denied the governor’s involvement in the arrest and detention of Mr Odok.
“It’s wrong for people to describe as the governor’s critic, anyone arrested by the police. The governor does not know anything about his arrest, the police are in a better position to tell you why they have arrested him,” Mr Ita told PREMIUM TIMES.
Another critic of Governor Ayade, Agba Jalingo, is facing treason trial over a report published in his newspaper, alleging that the governor diverted N500 million belonging to the Cross River State Government.
Mr Jalingo, a journalist and publisher of an online newspaper, CrossRiverWatch, is currently remanded in Calabar prison.