Publisher Remanded for Cybercrime, Released on Bail after one Week

Mr. Agba Jalingo

On March 27, 2023, Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Federal High Court, Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory ordered Mr. Agba Jalingo to be remanded at the medium-security custodial centre in Kuje after refusing to hear a bail application by his lawyers. He was released a week later after he met the bail conditions that the judge later granted him.

Jalingo was in court for a hearing in a case where he was charged with cybercrime for publishing an article that was deemed ‘insulting’ to Mrs. Elizabeth Frank Ayade, wife of the younger brother of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.

In suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022, the journalist was accused of false publication intended to cause, “annoyance, ill will and insult,” on the person of Mrs. Ayade, wife of Mr. Frank Ayade. He is alleged to have committed the offence punishable by Section 24 (1)b of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015.

When Agba was arraigned on March 27, he pleaded not guilty to both charges. The prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbobe, sought an adjournment for trial which the Jalingo’s counsel, F. Baba Isa did not oppose but pleaded for the matter to be stood down as the lead defence counsel, Marshal Abubakar, was on his way to the court.

Mr. Ogbobe opposed the application, citing Section 354 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which stipulates that when parties are called, the Court shall proceed to hear the matter. He claimed that the request to stand down the matter was a calculated attempt to postpone the arraignment and asked the Court to not take the defense seriously.

But Mr. Isa pleaded that in the interest of justice, the sins of the Counsel should not be visited on the defendant. However, Justice Abubakar declined to grant the application to stand down the matter.

When Mr. Abubakar appeared in Court, Justice Abubakar told him that in her records, he was absent from Court. She also declined the defense request to move the motion for bail.

Justice Abubakar thereafter ordered that Jalingo be remanded at the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Center, and adjourned the matter until March 30, 2023, for the court to take the bail application, and May 31, 2023 for trial.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on March 30, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, leading a team of lawyers, applied for Jalingo to be released on bail pending the determination of the case against him. Mr Ogbobe did not oppose the application.

Justice Abubakar granted him bail in the sum of N500,000 and a surety who must be the owner of a landed property within the Federal Capital Territory and who must also depose to an affidavit of means.

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.

Jalingo was released on April 3, 2023 after he met his bail conditions and his release warrant was signed and served on correctional authorities.