By Jonathan Ugbal
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and presided over by Justice Zainab Abubakar has admitted Nigerian Journalist and activist, Citizen Agba Jalingo after he was remanded on Monday for allegedly “insulting” Mrs. Elizabeth Alami Ayade, the sister-in-law to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.
Two charges bordering on false publication intended to cause, “annoyance, ill will and insult,” on the person of Mrs. Ayade, wife of Mr. Frank Ayade, were preferred on Citizen Jalingo in suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022.
He is alleged to have committed an offense punishable by Section 24 (1)b of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.
Agba who had pleaded not guilty when arraigned on Monday, to the charges was remanded at the Medium Security Custodial Center Kuje in Abuja since then with rights groups and activists calling for his release after Justice Abubakar had refused the request of his defense counsel to move the motion for bail.
Moving the motion for bail, rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, prayed the Court to admit the defendant to Court in liberal terms especially as the prosecution did not oppose the bail application by filing a Counter Affidavit.
On his part, the prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbobe Esq said they were not objecting to the bail application.
Justice Abubakar subsequently admitted him to bail with a bond of NGN 500,000 and one surety in like sum.
Justice Abubakar who said having perused through the application especially paragraphs 10 to 15, 17, and 18 of the affidavit in support of the motion, also said the surety must own a landed property within the jurisdiction of the Court of which the titled documents must be deposited with the Deputy Registrar in charge of litigations of the Courts. Furthermore, the surety must depose to an affidavit of means before the Deputy Registrar, litigations of the Court. Also, she ruled that Citizen Jalingo will remain remanded until his bail conditions are met.
In his response, Mr. Falana SAN commended the Court’s decision to admit Citizen Jalingo to bail as well as remanding him in one of the best prisons in the country.
The matter was adjourned until May 31, 2023, for trial.
Mrs. Ayade who was not in Court on Thursday had in July 2022, through her lawyer, Uyi Frank Obayagbona Esq written to Mr. Jalingo seeking a retraction of an article that queried why a suspended staff of the University of Calabar, Paschal Aboh Esq was facing trial for impersonating a student of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus while the person who allegedly contracted him (Mrs. Ayade) was walking free.
She asked for an apology to be published in two national dailies, including, but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, and Cross River Watch (not CrossRiverWatch) as well as NGN 500 million in damages. He was given fourteen days to comply otherwise legal proceedings will be instituted against him.
However, Police from the FCT Command on August 19, 2022, stormed the Ogudu, in Lagos State residence of Citizen Jalingo, and arrested him, several hours after holding his wife and daughter hostage.
He was subsequently detained at the Alapere police station and later, at Area F Command in Ikeja before he was flown to Abuja the next day where it was revealed that Mrs. Ayade had abandoned the civil approach and rather petitioned him for allegedly defaming her character.
He was released later that night and when asked to return two days later on August 22nd, was asked to go back to Lagos since Mrs. Ayade failed to show up.
But, news filtered in, in January 2023, that the Police abandoned the criminal defamation case and opted to sue Citizen Jalingo for alleged cyber crimes.
Also, civil proceedings secretly filed in September 2022 at the High Court of the FCT, were served via substituted means at the gate of Hit 95.9 FM Calabar where Mr. Jalingo is not a staff.