By: Jonathan Ugbal.
A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar and presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on Monday, discharged Nigerian journalist and activist, Agba Jalingo in a criminal suit that alleged he committed acts of terrorism, treasonable felony and cyber crimes.
This followed the decision of the Cross River State Government to withdraw the charges it filed against him.
The State had taken over prosecution from the federal government in February 2020 when he was admitted to bail after spending 179 days in incarceration.
The Director of Public Prosecution in the State, John Ogban Esq. told the court at the resumed hearing that he received the directives of the Attorney General, Tanko Ashang to discontinue the case.
Ogban who was slammed by Justice Ojukwu at the last adjourned date, said they had filed a further amended charge before now, but made a verbal application for the withdrawal of the case.
When asked if he was withdrawing totally and will no longer prosecute the charge, Ogban answered in the affirmative.
The defense, led by Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria did not object to the verbal application and commended the directive.
“We commend the Honorable Attorney General of the State for taking this decision. We are happy that our harassment has ended,” Olumide-Fusika who was accompanied by F. Baba Isa and Kehole Enya said.
He further prayed the court to release the sum paid as the bail bond into an interest yielding account by the defendant.
The matter was then stood down for the Court to verify the payment date among others items.
And, upon resumption, Justice Ojukwu while relying on the provisions of section 355 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, acquitted the Jalingo, “on all four charges. Therefore, the charge is hereby dismissed.”
On the application for the refund, the court held that the sum and the interest should be paid to him.
This draws the curtain on the case so far with the federal and State governments failing to provide a single witness in the 30 months the trial lasted, despite an initial order to mask witnesses.
Mr. Jalingo was arrested on August 22, 2019 over an article published in July of that year wherein he demanded the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released for the floating of the Cross River State Microfinance Bank.
After 34 days in police custody, he was arraigned for alleged acts of terrorism, cultism, treasonable felony and attempts to overthrow the State government. He pleaded not guilty and was remanded at the Afokang prisons.
Denied bail twice by Justice Simon Amobeda who was presiding over Court 2 of the division, he was eventually admitted to bail by Justice Sule Shuaibu who presided over Court 1 after Justice Amobeda recused himself following the leak of an audio tape which suggested he had compromised.
The charges preferred against him were amended several times during the trial and he took four pleas within the duration of the trial – twice under Justice Amobeda, once under Justice Shuiabu and once under Justice Ojukwu.