Relief finally came the way of detained Nigerian journalist, Mr. Agba Jalingo, as the Federal High Court, sitting in Calabar, Cross River State, yesterday granted him bail in the sum of N10 million.
Jalingo, who is the Publisher of an online newspaper, Crossriverwatch, was arrested last year and kept in detention for 175 days before he was granted bail by the court.
He is being tried for terrorism-related charges.
Justice Sule Shuaibu, who was sitting over the matter for the first time, granted the journalist bail based on an application by his counsel, Mr. Attah Ochinke.
Ochinke, in his motion, brought pursuant to Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), as well as Sections 158, 161, 162 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, urged the court to admit the defendant to bail relying on “his state of health as the special circumstances upon which the court may exercise its discretion.”
The prosecution counsel, Mr. Tanko Ashang, who is the Cross River State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, did not oppose the bail application.
Ashang who said he was not opposing the bail application dated November 7, 2019 and filed on November 12, 2019, however, asked the court to be guided by the provisions of Section 34 subsection 3(a) and subsection 5 of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act of 2013, which bars the discussion of court proceedings on trials relating to terrorism as well as prescribes a five-year jail term for those found guilty of contravening the law.
In his ruling, Justice Shuaibu set the bail bond at N10 million, and one surety in like sum.
The judge ruled that the surety must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court and his address must be physically verified. Also, he must show means that he will be able to forfeit the bail bond, the judge ruled.
“The surety is expected to deposit N700,000 cash with the registrar of the court who will then pay it into an interest-yielding account with a commercial bank,” while Jalingo must seek the permission of court to travel out of the country if he wants to travel, the judge ruled.
“Agba Jalingo must depose to an oath that he will be available in court while he and his surety must present two passport photographs,” the judge said.
Justice Shuaibu ordered that the proceedings of the court on the matter shall not be a matter of public discourse and subsequently adjourned the matter till April 6, 7 and 8, 2020 for the prosecution to open and close its case while other motions may be treated before that day.
The judge sat over the case for the first time after taking over from Justice Simon Amobeda who had recused himself from the case.
Last week, the Cross River State Government took over the prosecution of the matter, days after the state Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, said his administration was innocent of the trial and prolonged detention of the journalist.