A magistrate court in Abuja on Monday struck out the suit against a journalist, Jones Abiri, for lack of jurisdiction.
The court stated that the offence for which the journalist was arraigned before the court amounted to criminal intimidation under the Criminal Code and the court could not entertain the trial because the offences were allegedly committed outside its jurisdiction.
The judgement followed an application brought by Mr Abiri’s lawyer, Samuel Ogala, that the court should transfer his trial to Bayelsa State, since that was where he was arrested.
Mr Abiri, publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Weekly Source newspaper, was being tried for alleged links to armed militancy in the Niger Delta.
Before the federal government arraigned him before the magistrate court in Abuja, he was detained by the State Security Service (SSS) for two years without trial.
He was granted bail after government charged him to court following a public outcry.
After the court reviewed his initial bail conditions, he was released on August 15 having met the new conditions.
A high court had in a separate but related case last week awarded Mr Abiri N10 million judgement against the SSS and the Nigerian government for the two years detention without trial.
Speaking on Mr Abiri’s trial on Monday, the Chief Magistrate, Chukwuemeka Nweke, said the offence he is accused of is criminal intimidation under the Criminal Code Act, and was allegedly committed in Bayelsa State outside the territorial jurisdiction of the court.
“That no element of the alleged offence of criminal intimidation took place within the Federal Capital Territory. I uphold in this honourable court the jurisdiction to hear the first information, which was filed against the applicants.
“That the court has the duty to uphold doctrine of fair hearing, which guarantees that an accused is charged within the territorial jurisdiction.
“That the first information report as presently presented is an abuse of process of this honourable court.
Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended reads: “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”
According to Mr Nweke, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Collins Truman, had in a preliminary objection filed a two paragraph affidavit and a written address, that the court lacks the power to transfer the matter to Bayelsa State.
Mr Nweke added that counsel to the prosecution filed a reply of point of law, that it is only at the point of law that the court would form an opinion whether it has the jurisdiction to try an offence or not.
According to the Chief Magistrate, “Section 112 (10) of Administrative Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 states that, “Where the evidence referred to in subsection (9) of this section has been taken or at any stage of the case, the magistrate is of the opinion that there is round that the suspect has committed an offence triable under this part, which such magistrate court is competent to try and which, in the opinion of the Magistrate could be adequately punished, the magistrate shall frame a charge stating the offence for which the suspect will either be tried by the court or direct that the suspect be tried in another magistrate court.”
Mr Nweke said under the jurisdiction of the magistrate court to look at the offence before the court, none of the alleged offences was within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.
“It is therefore deemed that the prosecution is not disputing the facts that all elements of the alleged offence occurred in Bayelsa State.
“This court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this matter and I hereby strike out this case,” Mr Nweke said.
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