Our Correspondent|10 December 2019
A Federal High Court sitting in Nigeria’s southern port city of Calabar has rescheduled its ruling on the provision of an electronic verbatim recorder in the trial of journalist and rights activist, Agba Jalingo to Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
Four count charges bordering on terrorism, conspiracy and attempts to bring down the reputation of the Cross River State government were preferred against Jalingo in the amended charges. He risks a death sentence or at best, a life sentence if convicted.
And, the presiding judge, Justice Simon Amobeda whom after listening to the arguments of the parties in the matter on Monday, December 2, 2019, adjourned until Monday for ruling on the application by the defense.
But, upon arriving Court, friends, families and journalists were told by court officials that Justice Amobeda who said he is bereaved, had traveled since last week and is yet to return.
A hearing notice was then issued for suit number FHC/CA/59C/2019. The matter is now slated for Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
Jalingo who arrived the Court premises in a green colored van marked “Calabar Prisons” in the company of two correctional officers sporting black shoes, a blue jean and navy blue shirt with an all caps inscription, “I am a prisoner of conscience,” was shocked.
He was however briefed by one of his lawyers present.
The lawyer could be heard telling him the information got to the defense team late on Sunday after visitation to the medium security custodial center where Jalingo has been remanded for 75 days now had closed.
After the briefing Jalingo was then cuffed and led back into the van and was driven off amidst cheers from those present.
Jalingo, whom alongside #RevolutionNow convener Omoyele Sowore and pro democracy activist, Olawale Bakare have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International had in July published an article where he demanded the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released by the Cross River State government for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance bank.
He was invited by the Cross River State command of the Nigerian Police force to answer to a petition bordering on that article. The interview was first slated for August 19th before it was rescheduled for August 26th and September 3rd 2019.
He had in several statements, announced his intention to honor the invitation before his arrest.
But, he was arrested at his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019 in a gestapo styled operation by the Intelligence Response Team of the Nigerian Police. The team had held staff of his wife hostage for four hours until he was arrested.
He was first detained at the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad annex at GRA Ikeja before he was ferried in a 25 hour long journey to Calabar where he was kept at a police black site facility with controlled access.
Despite his health failing several times, the Police declined medical officials requests to keep him on bedrest twice before eventually arraigning him on September 25th after 34 days in custody.
Dozens of individuals, civil society organizations, pressure and right groups condemned his incarceration and trial. They have called for his release with some accusing Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State as being the architect of his ordeal, an allegation his spokesman, Mr. Christian Ita has continued to deny.
He was listed as one of the 10 most urgent cases of threats to press freedom by the One Free Press Coalition in October. The Cross River State government accused TIME, a member of that coalition which reported the story of practicing “gutter journalism.”