By Jonathan Ugbal
A Federal High Court, sitting in Calabar and presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda has denied bail for Journalist, Agba Jalingo.
Jalingo is facing charges of treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross River State government.
And Justice Amobeda who also dismissed the preliminary objection of the prosecution counsel, held that one of the charges was punishable by death. He also held that the defendant did not prove special and exceptional circumstances to compel him to apply his discretion and grant Jalingo bail.
In the alternative of granting bail, the Court also ordered accelerated hearing of the case. The matter was adjourned to October 16, 2019.
On Wednesday during the hearing of the bail application and preliminary objection, counsel to the prosecution, Mr. Dennis Tarhemba, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, had argued that Mr. Jalingo’s lawyers led by a former Attorney General of Cross River State, Attah Ochinke were caught on “Forum Shopping” having filed motions for bail in two Courts on the second and fourth day of September, 2019.
But, Ochinke had argued that their actions were in line with the rules of the Court and the bail application before Justice Francisca Isoni of the High Court of Cross River State had since been dismissed.
And, in his reaction to the ruling of the Court, Mr. Tarhemba averred that: “The ruling is according to the law, who am I to question the rule of law in this country.”
He hailed the Court as, “an epitome of justice,” and explained that the case was akin to a race which must produce a winner.
“It is just a race, a judicial race and a legal race which ordinarily today, the prosecution has won their own submission before this honorable Court,” he said.
Mr. Jalingo’s counsel, Ochinke told journalists that: “The Court in the exercise of it’s discretion decided that enough reason was not given for Agba Jalingo to be granted bail today basically on the basis that insufficient information on his medical health was presented.”
Ochinke, a former Attorney General and Justice Commissioner in the Cross River State said the conditionality for the bail for the charges preferred against Jalingo were a little bit “strenuous than ordinary offenses,” adding that, “we still have remedies which we will revert to, to represent the application before the Court.”
He expressed worry over Jalingo’s health during the course of the trial.
“His health condition is still a very big concern because even while in custody, he collapsed and the Police themselves were forced to rush him to the hospital for his revival. There is no doubt that he is in frail health. There is no doubt that his health will be a challenge during this period. We are hopeful that he will not remain in custody during this period – a situation that will endanger his health. We are hoping that enough will be done to ensure that he is alive while his trial lasts,” he said.
Mr. Jalingo had arrived the court premises at about 9:18 AM in a green colored van marked “Calabar Prisons” in the company of four correction officers.
Decked in in a black tee shirt with the inscription, “Journalism Is Not A Crime,” Jalingo wore blue and white colored flip flops (bathroom slippers) and a blue jeans.
He waved to colleagues standing by who hailed his arrival and collected a green colored muffler clothing from Jonathan Ugbal, another journalist facing trial over the #RevolutionNow movement. It had the inscriptions “Great Nigeria” and “I Love Nigeria” boldly printed on both sides.
He was led into the court building in handcuffs alongside another inmate. The cuffs were removed shortly before he entered the courtroom. Both shared one cuff with Jalingo’s right hand cuffed to the other inmates left hand.
And, Justice Amobeda who entered the courtroom at about 9:55AM said he will defer the ruling to midday.
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