By Jonathan Ugbal and Patrick Obia
A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, the Cross River State capital has reserved November 21, 2019 for its ruling on the bail application of Barrister Joseph Odok, a critic of Governor Ben Ayade facing trial for alleged cyber crimes and terrorism.
The case is presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda who had on Wednesday struck out the application of the prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba to withdraw the charges against Mr. Odok.
Mr. Tarhemba had told the Court that they were withdrawing the charges because the police headquarters in Abuja want Mr Odok and the case transferred to them for a thorough investigation. Mr. Tarhemba is a Deputy Superintendent of Police and the head of the legal department of the police command in Cross River State.
But, Justice Amobeda ruled that it was only the Attorney General of the federation that had the power to do so.
And, on Thursday, Mr. Oliver Osang, the counsel to Mr. Odok moved the motion for his bail. This followed an application filed on October 21, which relied on section 36 subsection 5 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; sections 32, 158, 161, 165 of the administration of criminal justice act 2015 as well as section 32 subsection 1 of the terrorism prevention amendment act 2013.
The motion which sought two prayers, was supported by a four paragraph affidavit deposed to by the counsel. Mr. Osang also adopted a written address filed on October 21 as part of his oral argument as well as five annexures marked exhibit ‘A’ to ‘E’.
He prayed the Court to grant the defendant bail.
But, Tarhemba who initially said he was not ready but was granted leave by the Court to continue having joined issue by filing a response, prayed the Court to discountenance the affidavit deposed to by Mr. Osang and subsequently dismiss the application.
Tarhemba said a 10 paragraph counter affidavit dated November 4, 2019 sworn to by Inspector Ihezuo Ibe of the CRS command of the NPF. He relied on all the paragraphs accompanied by a written address dated November 1 and filed on November 4th. He adopted it as part of its oral argument.
“We submit by way of adumberation that there is no supporting affidavit before this Court as required by law,” Tarhemba said and cited rule 20 of the rules of professional conduct which he said Mr. Osang was guilty of as he is listed as a witness and cannot be counsel at the same time.
“We submit that he is a witness in this case and cannot be counsel,” Tarhemba submitted and urged the court to expunge the affidavit sworn to by Mr. Oliver and invoke the necessary action against him.
On points of law, Tarhemba further submitted that “the defense did not exhibit any exceptional circumstances to warrant the court to exercise its discretion in granting bail” as stated in section 161 subsection 2 of the administration of criminal justice act 2015, particularly paragraphs a, b and c.
However, Mr. Osang in his response on points of law said Tarhemba’s submission was “misconceived.” He submitted that rule 20 of the rules of professional conduct cited by the prosecution neither applies in the case nor prevent a counsel appearing in a criminal matter from deposing to an affidavit in support of an application.
He urged the Court to discountenance the submission of the prosecution and grant the defendant’s prayers as canvassed in the evidence attached.
In his ruling, Justice Amobeda also ordered that Mr. Odok be remanded at the medium security custodial center in Calabar till the next date.
“This matter is adjourned till 21 of November for ruling. The defendant shall be remanded in the correctional facility till then,” Amobeda ruled.
Mr. Odok’s lawyer told journalists outside the Courtroom that: “We wait till that day for the Court to rule on the bail application whether he will be granted bail or not. Bail is at the discretion of the Court. It is not at the discretion of the defense or the prosecutor. It is purely a constitutional matter and it is at the discretion of the Court. It is not the place of the prosecution to say don’t grant him bail. The Court will look at all the processes, affidavit attached, the exhibits and do justice.”
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