Court adjourns seating over Agba Jalingo’s terrorism, treasonable felony trial
The Cross River State Government has filed an application to the Federal High Court (Calabar Division) to adjourn the trial of Nigerian journalist and rights activist, Agba Jalingo who was charged with terrorism, treasonable felony, cultism and attempt to topple the Buhari-led government and the Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.
Mr Jalingo risks a death sentence or at best, a life sentence if convicted for any of the four charges against him.
Mr Jalingo who is also the state chairman of the African Action Congress (AAC), had published on CrossRiverWatch in July 2019 demanding the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance Bank.
Upon arriving Court, on Monday, for the accelerated hearing before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, friends and family members of Mr Jalingo were disappointed to learn that the Director of Public Prosecution in the State Felix Ititim Esq had written the court that he will be “unavoidably absent.”
“I shall be attending UNODC Workshop for Development of Wildlife Crime Rapid Reference Guide and Charging Standards for Prosecutors, from 27th-29th July 2021. The departure date and check-in is Monday, 26th July 2021,” read in part, Mr Ititim’s letter dated July 23, 2021, and addressed to the Registrar of the Court.
Mr Jalingo is yet to appear in Court 15 months after he was admitted to bail by Justice Sule Shuaibu on February 13, 2020. The COVID-19 lockdowns, unavailability of the prosecution counsels and the recent strike by Judiciary staff.
And, Mr Ititim asked the Registrar to, “bring this information to the attention of His Lordship and cause the matters to be adjourned to the 6th and 7th October 2021 or 18th, 19th and 20th October 2021.”
This means that Mr Jalingo would have gone at least 601 days without appearing in Court.
The case in suit number FHC/CA/59C/2019 generated controversy after the first trial Judge, Justice Simon Amobeda ordered a secret trial and that the witnesses be masked which led the #OneFreePressCoalition to list the case as one of the 10 most urgent cases of threats to press freedom shortly after Jalingo, alongside fellow journalist and rights activists Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare were declared prisoners of conscience.
It will be recalled that the ECOWAS Court recently awarded NGN30 million against the Federal Government for the treatment meted out on Mr Jalingo after his arrest at his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019.