Court grants Agba Jalingo N500,000 bail

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Mr. Agba Jalingo, a journalist and publisher of an online news outlet, CrossRiverWatch, was granted bail in the sum of N500,000 by the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday, three days after he was remanded in prison custody.

Last Monday, Trial Justice Zainab Abubakar remanded Jalingo in prison after he was arraigned by the Nigerian Police Force for allegedly publishing a story that was considered an insult to one Mrs. Elizabeth Ayade, the wife of the younger brother of Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade.

He was in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022, which bordered on alleged cybercrime, accused of publishing an article that disparaged Mrs. Ayade personality.

Jalingo, who is a frontline critic of governor Ayade’s administration, was specifically accused of engaging in false publication that was intended to cause annoyance, ill will and insult to the person of Mrs Ayade.

However, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge against him which is punishable under Section 24 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.

At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Thursday, the defendant, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, applied to be released on bail pending the determination of the case against him.

Police lawyer, Mr. Fidelis Ogbobe did not oppose the application.

Consequently, aside from the N500, 000 bail bond, trial Justice Abubakar held that the surety must be an owner of a landed property within the the Federal Capital Territory.

The judge ordered that the title deed of the said property must be deposited with the Deputy Registrar in charge of litigations of the Courts.

Beside, 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.

It will be recalled that the nominal complainant, Mrs. Ayade, had in 2022, asked Mr. 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.

Irked by the article, Mrs. Ayade, through her lawyer, demanded a retraction and an apology to be published in two national dailies and social media platforms, as well as the payment of N500million to her as damages.

Following Mrs Ayade’s petition, Police arrested Jalingo and later released him on administrative bail.

It subsequently preferred a two-count charge against him before the high court.