The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has demanded the immediate release of a Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo who was detained in prison by a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja for alleged defamation against Mrs Elizabeth Ayade, Governor Ben Ayade’s in-law.
The group made this demand via a tweet made on Monday afternoon saying, “Nigerian authorities must immediately release journalist Agba Jalingo who has been reportedly remanded at the Medium Security Custodial Center in Kuje, for allegedly publishing an article that was deemed ‘insulting’ to Mrs Elizabeth Ayade, Governor Ben Ayade’s in-law.”
The Federal High Court denied Jalingo the chance to apply for bail in a defamatory trial filed against him by the Federal Capital Territory Police Command.
Jalingo was accused of defaming Elizabeth Ayade, the wife of Frank Ayade, who is a brother of Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade.
It was gathered that the journalist was denied the chance to exercise his constitutional right to request bail during the continuation of the trial in a ruling delivered by Justice Zainab Bage Abubakar on Monday morning.
The constitutional right to bail is ingrained in the trite law that every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This right is guaranteed under Sections 35 and 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
SaharaReporters observed that the judge was hostile to Jalingo’s lawyers, denying them the opportunity to stand down the case for 30 minutes in order to give the lead lawyer, Marshal Abubakar an opportunity to file an application for bail.
When Marshal arrived, she denied him the opportunity to participate in the hearing, she then ordered that Agba Jalingo should be arraigned in the dock and be read his one-count charge. The judge thereafter sent him to Kuje prison until Thursday.
The police in August 2022 arrested Jalingo after hours of laying siege to his Lagos residence for allegedly defaming the character of Elizabeth.
According to a court document obtained by SaharaReporters and filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 6, 2022, the police claimed the publication by the journalist against Elizabeth was false and was released for the purpose of causing her annoyance, ill will, and insult.