By Ushang Ewa
The trial of rights activist and journalist, Agba Jalingo suffered a setback on Thursday as the prosecution counsel, Mr. Dennis Tarhemba asked the Court to take a “short date” in order for him to file his written response to the issues raised by the defendants in their counter affidavit to his motion to amend the charges.
Four charges bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, cultism and attempt to topple the Cross River State government was preferred against Mr. Jalingo.
And Tarhemba, a Deputy Superintendent of Police told the Court on Thursday in his opening statement that the process filed by the defendant was served on him less than an hour before the Court resumed sitting on the matter. He sought for time to file his response.
The lead counsel to the defendant, Mr. Attah Ochinke in his argument posited that the prosecution was in the habit of serving his processes filed hours before the Court sits which forced him to file his response on Thursday morning just as the presiding judge, Justice Simon Amobeda had ordered on Wednesday.
Justice Amobeda adjourned to October 22nd and 23rd for commencement of trial at the instance of the prosecution.
And Ochinke, a former Attorney General and Justice Commissioner in Cross River State told journalists outside the Courtroom that: “Nothing really happened today. You will recall that the prosecution had filed a motion to amend their charges and also to have the identities of their witnesses hidden. We are vehemently opposed to that. We filed our process today and served them, our reaction to their motion, in opposition to that and they have taken an adjournment to react, to join issues with us. It is a right they have. We had only served them today and we will come back next week for the argument on the motion.”
Mr. Tarhemba could not be seen after the session. However, he had on October 11, 2019, filed for the amendment of the charges and served the defendant on the 15th, hours before the Court sat on the 16th.
Also, he sought an order to protect the witnesses. But, Ochinke said nobody is being threatened.
“Nobody is being threatened. The defence don’t even have capacity to threaten anybody. We believe that there is sufficient force in the prosecution to protect all their witnesses. Nobody is being threatened,” Ochinke told newsmen.
Jalingo is to be remanded in Prisons custody till he next adjournment date where he has spent 22 days so far.
Mr. Jalingo who arrived late in Court today at about 9:50 AM donned another shirt with the inscription, “The Road To Freedom Passes Through A Jail Door.” He also wore a blue jean and grey shoes.
In what seems to be a ritual, he raised both hands which were cuffed and greeted supporters who were waiting to welcome him and proceeded to collect 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.
The cuffs were then removed before he was led into the courtroom.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail his arrest, incarceration and subsequent trial with several organizations and individuals accusing the State Governor, Ben Ayade of being behind his ordeal, an allegation his aides have continuously denied.
Mr. Jalingo had in July written an article demanding the State comes 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.
However, he was arrested in his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019 and embarked on what colleagues have described as a “25 hour tortuous journey” by road to Calabar.
After 34 days in Police custody, he was arraigned for the hearing of his bail application on September 25, 2019 which Justice Amobeda in his October 4, 2019 ruling held that there was no sufficient evidence to show that his health was failing.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.