Court reduces Jones Abiri’s bail conditions

Jones Abiri
Jones Abiri

The Federal High Court on Monday in Abuja reduced the conditions of the bail it granted a Nigerian journalist, Jones Abiri.

The court presided over by Ijeoma Ojukwu had on June 24 granted Mr Abiri bail in the sum of N100 million with one surety in like sum.

The surety must own a property in Abuja, the court ruled.

Not being able to meet the conditions, Mr Abiri through his counsel, Samuel Ogala, applied for the variation of the terms, asking the court for leniency.

During the court session on Monday, Mr Ogala, through a motion dated September 2 and filed September 3, informed the court that Mr Abiri was unable to meet the previous bail conditions because he does not know anybody who owns a landed property within Abuja metropolis.

The Nigerian government through its counsel, Bagudu Sani, opposed the bail application in a counter-affidavit, urging the court to discountenance it.

Mr Abiri’s lawyer further argued that the prosecution failed to adduce cogent reasons why the application for variation should not be granted.

After hearing the application, Justice Ojukwu in the varied bail terms, ordered that a level 14 officer, Frederick Bekeobiri, of the Federal Ministry of Power who elected to stand as surety for the defendant to swear to an affidavit of means.

This, the judge said, is to be commensurate with the bail sum earlier granted.

She further ordered the surety to deposit the originals of the title documents of his landed property situated at the Nasarawa axis before the court’s registrar.

Ms Ojukwu adjourned the matter to October 17 for trial.

Addressing journalists shortly after the court proceedings, Mr Ogala said he was hopeful the defendant would be released on Monday after perfecting the new bail conditions.

Arraigned for alleged economic sabotage and terrorism

The Nigerian government on May 24 arraigned Mr Abiri for alleged economic sabotage and terrorism.

Federal prosecutors filed three counts of terrorism, economic sabotage, and fraud against Mr Abiri.

According to the charge sheet seen by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Abiri sent text messages from his phone number to Shell and Agip officials, threatening to blow their oil installations if his demands were not met.

The Bayelsa-based journalist was also accused of leading a gang of activists to blow up pipelines in Bayelsa.

All the offences allegedly took place between June and July 2016.

The charges came nine months after Mr Abiri was freed from the custody of the State Security Service, after spending two years there without trial.

The journalist strongly denied all allegations, saying he was being targeted for his media work that put a spotlight on the controversial conducts of oil companies and the Nigerian government in the Niger Delta.

His ordeal has been a major topic of discussion amongst media rights advocates, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists asking for all charges to be dropped.

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