By Jonathan Ugbal
Mrs. Elizabeth Ayade, wife of Mr. Frank Ayade, the younger brother to the immediate past Governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade on Wednesday told the Federal High Court that Nigerian Journalist and publisher of CrossRiverWatch, Citizen Agba Jalingo made her unhirable as a lawyer.
Mrs. Ayade was called up as the first prosecution witness in suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022 between the Commissioner of Police FCT vs Agba Jalingo which she is the nominal complainant.
Citizen Jalingo is alleged to have committed an offense punishable by Section 24 (1)b of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015. And, two charges bordering on false publication intended to cause, “annoyance, ill will and insult,” on the person of Mrs. Ayade.
And, while testifying in oath before Justice Zainab Abubakar, Mrs. Ayade said Jalingo’s post on Facebook and a CrossRiverWatch story bothering over exam malpractice at the Abuja campus of the Nigerian Law School “demoralized her,” and has made her not be able to practice as no one will hire her.
She told the Court that she was informed about a post relating to her by Jalingo who initially did not mention her name but later did. She called her lawyer who asked her to print everything and then wrote a letter of demand asking Citizen Jalingo to take his post down among other things.
She said when the letter of demand was sent to Citizen Jalingo via WhatsApp, he responded with; “Why do you waste your data? Let’s meet in Court.”
“I was demoralized. I was so demoralized. The post went viral that people called from across the world. I did not know how to practice because who will hire you with that information out there?” She said.
The prosecutor, Fidelis Ogbobe Esq tended five documents through her which the defense counsel, Marshal Abubakar Esq said they will object but pleaded the court to differ their objections which they will file in their final address before the Court. The Court then admitted temporarily, into evidence, the documents.
While being Cross-examined, Mrs. Ayade said she did not know Citizen Jalingo as a journalist and activist. She said she knows CrossRiverWatch as a media house but also as a blackmailer and mentioned this Reporter as the Editor-in-chief. However, she admitted knowing the roles of journalists as enshrined in the constitution.
She admitted knowing that there is a judgment of the ECOWAS Court of Justice which has expunged the law which the case is based upon and admitted that she filed a civil suit which comes up tomorrow (Thursday) at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. She also admitted knowing that her remedy lies in the civil process.
After initially saying she knew Paschal Aboh Esq who was her senior at the University of Calabar, she later, upon guidance from the Court, said no. She also said she doesn’t know Idoko Odeh either. But, she said she is aware the duo are facing trial for impersonation and it wasn’t because of her. She said it was because of Orekoya Benjamin and asked the defense counsel to find out who Mr. Benjamin is.
Justice Abubakar who kept interrupting the cross-examination by Mr. Marshal then gave him only three minutes to finish his cross-examination despite earlier saying she has all the time. At that point, Mr. Marshal stopped the cross-examination, and the matter was adjourned until July 17th for the continuation of trial.
The defense counsel said they have only two witnesses left to call.
Mrs. Ayade 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.