The detained Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, has filed a fresh application for bail at the Federal High Court, Calabar.
Mr Jalingo’s treason trial starts afresh today after the case was transferred to a news judge, Sule Shuaibu.
Mr Shuaibu is the administrative judge of the Federal High Court, Calabar. He takes the case over from a judge within the same high court, Simon Amobeda, who withdrew from it after a secret recording where he (Amobeda) allegedly made some “biased” remarks against Mr Jalingo, was leaked to the press late last year.
Mr Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22, over a report alleging that Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million belonging to the state.
The journalist, detained in Calabar prison, has been refused bail, twice.
Mr Jalingo’s lawyer, Attah Ochinke, told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday that they have filed a fresh application for his bail.
“Yes, we already filed a pending application for bail before the new judge. It is our responsibility to make the case (for his bail), we hope that the judge will agree with us, with our application,” Mr Ochinke said.
“Actually, bail in this circumstances depends on the discretion of the court. We hope that we have put before the court sufficient materials and argument for him to exercise that discretion in our favour. We are confident that that would be done,” the lawyer added.
Mr Jalingo was last denied bail in October by Justice Amobeda who ruled that the charges against the journalist were grave with one carrying capital punishment.
The judge also ruled that there was no substantial evidence to show that Mr Jalingo’s health was failing.
The lawyer, Mr Ochinke, had pleaded with the court to grant him bail on grounds that he was determined to go through his trial, and, therefore, would not jump bail. He also pleaded that the journalist should be admitted to bail on health ground.
Mr Jalingo had his hands handcuffed when prison officials brought him to court in October for the ruling on his bail application.
The incarceration of the journalist has attracted outrage from groups within and outside Nigeria.
“We are concerned that Agba Jalingo’s trial falls short of international standards of fairness, especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret.
“The flawed charges and sham trial of Agba Jalingo have exposed the inadequacies and manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for human rights and the rule of law,” Amnesty International said recently.
“Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must stop filing bogus and politically motivated charges against critics and start listening to what they have to say.
“The case of Agba Jalingo is just one of many cases of blatant violations of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in Cross River state and several parts of Nigeria. Joseph Odok was also unlawfully detained and later charged with terrorism solely for expressing critical opinion on social media.”