|Agba Jalingo (middle)|
Our Correspondent|10 December 2019
Nigerian journalist and rights activist, Agba Jalingo has written the Chief Judge of the country’s Federal High Court, John Tsoho to reassign his case to another Judge.
Jalingo risks a death sentence if convicted for the four charges bordering on terrorism, conspiracy and attempts to bring down the reputation of the Cross River State government and the Governor preferred against him in suit number FHC/CA/59C/2019.
And, in a letter dated November 27, 2019, Jalingo said that after considering the contents of a leaked audio where the presiding judge in his case, Justice Simon Amobeda, it became clear that justice may not be done in the case.
In that leaked audio, Justice Amobeda could be heard among other things, accusing Jalingo’s lead counsel, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria of arrogance and attempting to intimidate the court.
Jalingo said in the leaked audio, Justice Amobeda discussed his matter with “strangers who had no business whatsoever with my case.” He said it was done behind his back, that of his counsel, the prosecutor and “on a day in which my case did not come up against him.”
The letter further read: “As Justice Simon Amobeda also reportedly stated in the secret audio recording, the charge on which he is to try me ‘is a criminal matter that the punishment carries death penalty.’ The charge I am to face trial on is based on some trumped-up allegations by Governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State, and I am eager to meet it head-on-head and defend myself and establish my innocence before the court of law and justice,” he wrote in the letter.
“However, I see no chance of fair trial for me in my case when the judge before whom the case (and my fate) lies is one whose understanding of justice, and the dispensation of it, is depicted in the above statements and comments, among many others alike made by Justice Amobeda in the secret audio recording.
“It is therefore my humble plea to your good office to help secure my constitutional right to fair hearing by reassigning my case to another judge that has a better appreciation of the call of justice which, in my case, includes the solemn one of determining, like God Almighty, whether I live or die. I beg that the reassignment should be to a judge outside the Calabar division, thus making him less susceptible to local political pressure.”
Jalingo was first arraigned on September 25, 2019, after spending 34 days in a Police black site facility. He was arrested at his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019 weeks after he published an article in July wherein 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.
His arrest and subsequent incarceration and trial has been condemned by individuals, right groups and civil society organizations with Amnesty International declaring him alongside #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore and pro democracy activist, Olawale Bakare as prisoners of conscience.
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.”
Also, the Cross River State government has been fingered by many as being behind his travails, an allegation the government has continuously denied.
His trial has suffered several setbacks. However, He is billed to appear in Court on Wednesday (tomorrow) for continuation of trial with masked witnesses expected to testify against him in secret following an order of the presiding judge.
He is currently remanded at the medium security custodial center in Calabar where he has spent 76 days so far with the Court refusing to admit him to bail on two occasions so far.