Sunday Ejike – Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday granted bail to a journalist and publisher of an online medium, CrossRiverWatch, Agba Jalingo.
The court had, on March 27 ordered the remand of the journalist at the Kuje Custodial Center Abuja, for allegedly publishing an article that was deemed ‘insulting’ to Mrs Elizabeth Ayade, who is wife to the younger brother of the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade.
Ruling on the bail application on Thursday, the trial Judge, Justice Zainab Abubakar granted Agba Jalingo bail in the sum of N500,000 and a surety in like sum.
He was in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022, which bordered on alleged cybercrime, accused of publishing an article that disparaged Ayade’s personality.
At the resumed hearing in the matter on Thursday, the defendant, through his team of lawyers led by Femi Falana applied to be released on bail pending the determination of the charges preferred against him.
Police lawyer, Fidelis Ogbobe did not oppose the application and the Judge consequently granted him bail in the sum of N500,000 and a surety in like sum.
The Judge who held that the surety must be an owner of a landed property within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ordered that the title deed of the said property must be deposited with the Deputy Registrar in charge of litigations of the Court.
Besides, the court held that the surety must also depose to an affidavit of means.
While adjourning the case till May 31 for trial, Justice Abubakar held that the defendant should remain in prison custody, pending the perfection of his bail conditions.
The journalist is alleged to have committed an offence punishable under Section 24 (1)b of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.
Upon arrangement on Monday, Jalingo pleaded not guilty to both charges when they were read out to him in the open court.
The prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbobe, sought a date to commence trial which the defence counsel, Baba Isa, did not oppose.
Justice Abubakar subsequently ordered that Jalingo be remanded at the Kuje Custodial Center, and adjourned the matter till March 30, 2023, to take the bail application of the defendant, and May 31, 2023, for trial.
The nominal complainant, Ayade, had in 2022, asked Jalingo to retract an article which she considered offensive.
Jalingo had in the said article, queried why a suspended staff of the University of Calabar, Paschal Aboh, was facing trial for allegedly impersonating a student of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus identified as Mrs Ayade, while the person (Mrs Ayade) that allegedly contracted him, remained free.
Ayade had demanded that an apology be published in two national dailies, including, but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, and “Cross River Watch” (not CrossRiverWatch), as well as a payment of N500 million in damages.
Jalingo was given a 14-day ultimatum to comply, otherwise legal proceedings will be filed against him.
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