By Ushang Ewa
A High Court of Cross River State sitting in Calabar and presided over by Justice Maurice Eneji has adjourned a libel case against an online Newspaper, CrossRiverWatch and journalist, Agba Jalingo until March 21, 2021 for hearing after the witness to the Cross River Microfinance Bank limited which is the claimant in the suit failed to turn up.
Counsel to the claimant in suit number HC/296/2019, R. A. Manga Esq. told the Court that his witness was “very sick,” and that he had conveyed the information to James Ibor Esq. Counsel to the defendants.
In his response, Mr. Ibor said the defense will “indulge the claimants again” due to the peculiarities of the times.
“My Lord, you know these days when we are told people are sick, we have to be careful because the next time, you may hear that the person has died and it will prick your conscience that you did not act humanely,” Ibor told the Court.
And, Justice Eneji adjourned the matter until March 21 at the instance of the claimants for hearing.
This is the second time the claimants sole witness is absent at the hearing of the suit.
The Alleged Libel …
Mr. Jalingo had in July 2019 published an article on CrossRiverWatch wherein he questioned the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance Bank.
He was then arrested on August 22, 2019 at his Lagos residence and spent 179 days in detention after criminal proceedings over the article were preferred against him with the Microfinance Bank, Governor Ben Ayade and the Cross River State Government as nominal complainants. The criminal trial is slated for prosecution to present their witnesses on March 1, 2021.
However, while in Police detention before his arraignment before Justice Simon Amobeda of the Calabar Division of the Federal High Court where the criminal proceedings were instituted, the Cross River Microfinance Bank went ahead to file a libel suit at the High Court of Cross River State dated August 28, 2019.
The processes were served on him while in detention at the Anti Cultism and Kidnapping Squad unit of the Cross River State Command of the Nigerian Police Force at the Cultural Center Complex in Calabar on August 29, 2019.
The matter was first called on February 5, 2020 with the Court failing to sit. The matter was then adjourned off record to February 20, 2020 but the Court still failed to hear the matter.
However, a hearing notice was issued for November 3, 2020 and upon resumption of hearing, the matter was adjourned until November 26th for pre trial.
After the pre trial on November 26, 2020, the matter was adjourned until January 14, 2021 for hearing but upon resumption, the claimants sole witness was absent and the matter adjourned until Monday.
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