By Jonathan Ugbal
The Cross River Microfinance Bank on Thursday closed its case in suit number HC/296/2019 before Justice Maurice Eneji of the High Court of Cross River State, after presenting only one witness in a libel suit against CrossRiverWatch, and it’s publisher, Agba Jalingo.
The bank is seeking, among other things, NGN2 billion as compensation for an article Mr. Jalingo wrote in July 2019 wherein he questioned the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released for the floating of the bank by Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade.
Filed in August 2019, the matter was first, slated for hearing in February 2020 with the bank failing to present its sole witness, Obono Patrick, after several adjournments. The bank later filed for replacement of its witness on March 5, 2021 with Adebayo Babatunde, the Head of Operations in the bank replacing Mr. Obono, the Managing Director.
And, on Thursday, the defense counsel, Thankgod Umet Esq. told the Court that the defense had finished its cross-examination of the claimants witness.
Alice Ewa Esq. who represented the claimants proceeded to ask the court to discharge the claimant’s witness from further testifying. The defense counsel did not object, and the Court granted their prayer.
Also, the bank moved a motion to close its case after presenting just one witness in 28 months and Justice Eneji granted this and adjourned the matter until January 20, 2022, for the defense to open its case.
Mr. Jalingo’s article is also at the heart of a criminal case before the Calabar division of the Federal High Court, which led to his detention for 179 days between August 2019 and February 2020. Mr. Jalingo is, currently, on bail.
Since the trial commenced, the Nigerian Police Force which led the initial prosecution through Dennis Terhemba and the Cross River State Government, which took over prosecution from the Nigerian Police Force, have failed to provide a witness in the case which has suffered technical delays.
Sources say amended charges have been filed by the State with Mr. Jalingo to take a fresh plea on the next Court date which is in February 2022.
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