By CrossRiverWatch Admin
A Federal High Court sitting in Nigeria’s southern port city of Calabar on Friday adjourned the bail hearing for Joseph Odok, a lawyer charged with terrorism and cybercrime for criticizing Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State until Tuesday, January 21 at the instance of the prosecution.
Justice Simon Amobeda who presides over the matter in his ruling, granted the submission of the prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba which referred the court to its rules that grant a party up to a week to join issues on any process filed.
Tarhemba, a Deputy Superintendent of Police had failed to appear in Court on Thursday with Justice Amobeda ruling that the defense counsel, Oliver Osang will be allowed to move the motion for bail should the prosecutor be absent.
And, on Friday, Tarhemba submitted that his office received the process two days back (on Wednesday) and was yet to file a response due to the fact he had traveled and returned on Thursday.
“We filed the motion on Wednesday and served them that same day,” Mr. Osang told journalists. He further averred that, “We wait for them to join issues and see what they come up with by the next Court date.”
Mr. Odok risks a death sentence if convicted for alleged acts of terrorism premised on a post credited to him on Facebook and remains remanded at the Medium Security Custodial Center in Calabar where he has spent 88 days so far.
He was arrested at his Abuja residence on September 26, 2019 and endured what family members say was a tortuous journey by road to Calabar where he was then detained at a black site facility.
He spent seven days in the facility before the Police approached the Calabar division of the Federal High Court seeking an order to detain him for 90 days on October 4, 2019.
The prosecution counsel, Tarhemba, said the order will aid the Police to travel with the defendant within and outside the jurisdiction of the Court to retrieve items that will aid their case.
According to the application, Odok was charged with criminal conspiracy, rape, treasonable felony, terrorism and obtaining money under false pretenses.
Justice Amobeda in his ruling granted 45 days with an option for renewal.
However, ten days later on October 14th, the Police filed two charges against Odok bordering on terrorism and cyberstalking.
Charge one read: “That you Joseph Odok ‘m’ and others now at large on or between the month of July – August 2019 in Calabar and Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did incite Cross Riverians to declare full blown war between the people of Ugep Osokom and Oku people of Cross River against themselves and carry out various unlawful acts to wit: terrorism, which you knew are capable of undermining the state security of Cross River and Federal Republic of Nigeria and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (2) (a) (b) and (h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.”
Charge two read: “That you Joseph Odok ‘m’ on or about in the month of July – August 2019 at Abuja and Calabar within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did publish a false statement on Social Media on your Facebook account titled “Why Martins Orim must call his cult brother ‘General Iron’ to order” in order to cause alarm, hatred and disturb public peace in Cross River State for the purpose of bringing the reputation of Martins Orim down. All this in a bid to annoy him which you knew it will cause insult, enmity, hatred and ill will and incite the people of Cross River State to lunch an attack on him and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 24 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes Prohibition Prevention Act, 2015.”
Martin Orim is the Chief of Staff to Governor Ben Ayade. He, alongside two ex security aides of Ayade, Jude Ngaji who served as state security adviser and Raphael Odu who was a director in Homeland Security department, were fingered in an alleged assassination attempt on Mr. Odok in September 2017.
He was eventually arraigned on October 22, 2019 where he pleaded “not guilty” to both charges.
In what was a sudden twist, the Police approached the court to withdraw the matter following a directive from the Inspector General of Police.
Tarhemba had told the Court that the police headquarters in Abuja want Mr. Odok and the case transferred to them for a thorough investigation.
But, Justice Amobeda in his ruling of Wednesday, November 13th struck out the application.
Justice Amobeda held that it was only the Attorney General of the federation that had the power to withdraw cases already on trial.
Odok’s Facebook page is replete with criticisms of Ayade’s government.
His wife, Cecilia Odok had told Premium Times in an interview that the Cross River State government was behind his travails, an allegation Ayade’s spokesman, Christian Ita denied.
Justice Amobeda in his ruling of December 16, 2019 refused admitting Odok to bail on the grounds that the defense had not shown exceptional circumstances to warrant the Court to exercise its discretion.
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