By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The Calabar division of the Federal High Court has upheld its decision to ensure that the trial of Agba Jalingo, a journalist and rights activist continues in secret.
Justice Simon Amobeda in his ruling on Tuesday on the application by Mr. Jalingo to modify it’s order of October 23, 2019 to mask witnesses said that it cannot sit as on appellate on its own decision.
Amobeda who held that there are exceptional cases to that position of law, however, said the counsel to the defendant/applicant Adeyinka Olumide-fusika, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria failed to cite the exceptional cases in his argument.
Mr. Olumide-fusika had in his argument on October 30th submitted that the names, addresses and other details of six out of seven witnesses were already stated in the prosecution’s proof of evidence and while relying on a paragraph of the ruling which said the order to mask witnesses can be modified, urged the Court to vary or modify its order to be restricted to witness seven marked as ‘XYZ’ in the proof of evidence.
But, Justice Amobeda in his ruling said it agrees with the prosecution that the application of the defense was an invitation to the Court to sit on appeal on its own order and asked the defense to approach the Appeal Court.
However, he agreed with the defense that there was no evidence that the witnesses of the prosecution had been threatened as the deponent of the affidavit supporting the application of the prosecution to mask witnesses had failed to provide details of the scenario.
Mr. Olumide-fusika had also argued that there was no way the prosecution’s witnesses could have been threatened on the 28th day of August 2019 when the initial charges were filed on August 30th 2019 and served on the defendant on September 3rd, 2019.
The matter is stood down till noon. This means that when the prosecution presents it’s witnesses, no member of the public and press will be allowed inside the Court Room.
But, Mr. Olumide-fusika while reacting to the ruling told the Court that his submission’s were “mis-characterized’ and said the only inference he could draw from the demeanor of the prosecution counsel, Mr. Dennis Tarhemba was that there was a communication between the Court and the prosecution. He also said he was not confident that a secret trial will bring justice especially as there will be no independent recording of Court proceedings.
At least two dozen armed policemen from the State command of the Nigerian Police Force as well as a dozen personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps had surrounded the Court as early as 8:00AM with those going in searched thoroughly. There are a handful of State Security Service agents also around.
Mr. Jalingo arrived Court around 9:48AM in a green colored van marked “Calabar Prisons” in the company of three correctional officers; one was armed.
He wore blue jeans, black shoes and a shirt with the inscription “We Must Stand Up To Bullies.” He proceeded to receive a green muffler with the inscriptions “I Love Nigeria” and “Great Nigeria” inscribed on either side of the muffler from Jonathan Ugbal, another journalist facing trial over the #RevolutionNow movement.
The Story So Far…
Mr. Jalingo had in July, published an article where he demanded the Cross River State government comes clean on the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance bank.
In August he was invited by the Cross River State Police command for an interview based on a petition against him bordering on his article.
The interview was first slated for August 19, 2019. It was later rescheduled for August 26th and September 3, 2019. Mr. Jalingo went public with his decision to honor the invitation.
However, he was arrested in a gestapo styled operation by Police officers in his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019. He was then driven by road to Calabar, the Cross River capital where he arrived on August 24, 2019.
He was detained for 32 more days at a police black site facility with limited access to him until his arraignment on September 25, 2019 for the hearing of his bail.
The trial has suffered so many setbacks with the Court denying admitting Mr. Jalingo to bail on two occasions; October 4th and November 30th.
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