23 October 2019
The trial of journalist and rights activist, Agba Jalingo again, on Tuesday suffered a setback as the Prosecution and Defense counsel could not come to terms on the processes filed.
Mr. Jalingo is facing trial on four count charges bordering on treasonable felony, attempt to topple the Cross River State government and terrorism.
And, on Tuesday, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Dennis Tarhemba told the Federal High Court sitting in Calabar and presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda that he was served with another affidavit by the defense and pleaded the Court to take a short date for "us to look at the content of this file."
According to Tarhemba, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, he was served at about 9:25AM when the Court had begun sitting.
But, the defense counsel, Mr. James Ibor in his argument submitted that the Prosecution lacked the right to “ask for another date, because we responded line-to-line to his further affidavit which was filled with lies."
And, Justice Amobeda said the Court will rise temporarily for both parties to sort out themselves in order to make a headway as the case has stalled for long due to affidavits and counter affidavits.
Jalingo, who was arrested on August 22, 2019 at his Lagos resident and was taken on what colleagues described as a “25 hour tortuous journey” to Calabar, spent 34 days in Police custody before he was arraigned for his bail hearing on September 25, 2019. After two more Court dates, the Court ruled on October 4th, 2019 which was the fourth Court date that there was no sufficient evidence to prove that he was sick, hence cannot be admitted to bail.
The commencement of trial slated for October 16 and 17 stalled as the prosecution approached the Court to amend its charges and protect witnesses. The Prosecution filed its processes on October 11th while the defense said it was served just before the Court sat on Wednesday last week.
The matter was then adjourned to Thursday (October 17th) where the prosecution counsel claimed that having been served the counter affidavit to its process earlier in the day, it was proper for the Court to adjourn to enable him respond.
The matter was again, adjourned to today and tomorrow (Wednesday) to entertain the plea of the prosecution and ruling as well as commencement of trial.
However, upon resumption of sitting, Tarhemba argued the need for protection of witnesses while Ibor submitted that there was no threat to the witnesses and called on the Court to dismiss the application of the prosecution.
The prosecution in its further affidavit, especially in Paragraph 5 and 7 had claimed that it’s witness had been threatened on August 28, 2019 at Watt Market in Calabar by someone donning clothes that showed he was sympathetic to Mr. Jalingo.
And, in it’s response which was later withdrawn but recorded in Court, the defense drew the attention of the Court to the fact that the date stated by the prosecution was two days before the charges were filed.
The charges were filed on August 30, 2019 and the defense said it was served in early September after it had filed an enforcement of fundamental human rights suit at the High Court of Cross River State which was struck out for want of jurisdiction.
Justice Amobeda, in his ruling, held that no matter where the ruling tilts to on the next adjourned date (tomorrow,) the actual trial will commence.
Sporting grey shoes, blue jeans and a black shirt with the inscription, “We Must Not Allow Dictatorship To Win,” Jalingo who arrived the Court in a green colored van marked, “Calabar Prisons” and accompanied bu four correctional officers, will be remanded in custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service where he has spent 27 days so far.
It will be recalled that Jalingo had in July, published an article where he asked Governor Ben Ayade to come clean on the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance bank.
A month later, he was invited by the Cross River State police command to answer to a petition bordering on his article. Initially scheduled for August 19, 2019, the interview was rescheduled to September 3, 2019.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail his arrest, incarceration and subsequent trial with many fingering the Cross River State government as architects of his travails, an allegation they have continuously denied.