Cross River government takes over prosecution of Jalingo
The Cross River State government has finally admitted involvement in the prosecution of Agba Jalingo, publisher of news portal, CrossRiverWatch.
The state’s Attorney General, Tanko Ashang had yesterday informed the court that the state government was taking over the prosecution of Jalingo and had informed Justice Simon Amobeda, who presides over Court 2 of the Calabar division of the Federal High Court, that a letter to that effect had been filed and is in the records of the court.
This development has eventually put paid to speculations as to who has been behind Mr. Jalingo’s arrest and incarceration for 169 days running, though the state governor Ben Ayade had severally denied claims from different organisations and individuals that he or the state was behind the journalist’s ordeal in court.
But yesterday when the matter was returned to Justice Amobeda’s court 57 days after he had recused himself, Mr. Ashang said they were ready to go ahead with the matter.
Then, counsel to the defendant, Attah Ochinke moved a motion to vacate an order of the court, which paused all proceedings until an electronic verbatim recorder is provided.
Justice Amobeda, who held that the prayers of the defendant were vague, however, granted the prayers of the defense and recused himself for the second time, referring the matter back to the administrative judge of the division, Justice Sule Shuaibu, who had referred the matter back to him to entertain the motion filed by the defendant.
This means that Jalingo will be docked before Justice Shuaibu by the next court date with the matter likely to start all over where he will be made to take a fresh plea, which will make it three times in less than five months.
As usual, the courtroom was filled to capacity with dozens of supporters, family members, associates and civil society organizations waiting outside to cheer Jalingo on.
He had arrived the court premises at about 9:36AM in a green van marked ‘Calabar’ with two correctional officers accompanying him.
He wore a black shirt with the inscription “Free Nigeria’s Prisoners Of Conscience,” blue jeans and black shoes. The shirt was produced by Amnesty International, which had on November 20, 2019, declared him alongside #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare prisoners of conscience.
He then proceeded to receive a fez cap with the trend ‘#IAmAgbaJalingo’ inscribed on it and produced by civil society organisation, ‘We The People’ from Jonathan Ugbal, another journalist being tried for allegedly participating in the #RevolutionNow protest.
Chants of “Free Agba Jalingo” rented the air as he was driven away by correctional officers back to the custodial centre where he has spent 135 days so far since his first arraignment on September 25th 2019 after spending 34 days in Police custody following his arrest on August 22, 2019.
Amnesty International in a press conference in Calabar on Thursday had declared that his trial is a “sham” and as the state and federal governments were collaborating to frustrate the matter.
No hearing notice has been issued yet on the matter following the new development.
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