BY Nsa Gill, Calabar
The trail of Agba Jalingo, a journalist and an activist, facing alleged crimes of treason and terrorism in the Federal High court in Calabar, Cross River State, resumes on Wednesday.
His case was last heard on December 12, 2019, when the trial judge, Justice Simon Amobeda granted an order for the provision of an electronic verbatim recorder (EVR) and recused himself from the matter in order to have “peace of mind.”
Jalingo had earlier written the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment of the case from Justice Amobeda’s court following a leaked tape. And, in his ruling, Amobeda referred the matter to the Administrative Judge of the Calabar division, Justice Sule Shuaibu who it is understood, remanded the case back to him to entertain a motion by the defense council seeking to vary the order for the provision of the EVR.
Justice Amobeda, despite opposition from the counsel to Agba Jalingo, had also granted the prosecution, the request to masked key witnesses and for them to testify in secret with the public barred from witnessing proceedings.
Agba Jalingo has spent 133 days so far in detention and had been denied bail twice.
He was arrested in his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019 despite repeated statements that he will honour a police invitation bordering on his article published in July where he demanded the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released by the Cross River State government for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance bank.
He was then ferried to Calabar by road in what colleagues and family describe as a tortuous 25-hour journey where he arrived on the 24th. He will then spend 32 days detained in a state government-managed facility where he collapsed twice due to ill health before he was arraigned on initial charges of treason, treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross River State government on September 25, 2019.
Cross River Governor, Benedict Ayade had been fingered as being behind his ordeal, an allegation the Governor and his aides denied.
Gov. Ayade in a recent interaction with newsmen in Abuja rather pointed at the Federal Government as the claimant in the case but still wend ahead to accuse Agba Jalingo of trading in blackmail and rather being more a politician than a journalist. In seeming afterthoughts, the governor did another video where he retracted and apologized over the allegation he made against Agba Jalingo saying “I got my facts wrong”.