A magistrate court in Akwa Ibom on Thursday struck out a criminal defamation charge against a journalist in the state.
The journalist, Nsibiet John, was arrested on January 5, 2017, in Uyo and arraigned before a senior magistrate for publishing a story alleging that the deputy governor of Akwa Ibom, Moses Ekpo, “pockets” N250 million monthly as security votes from the state government.
Mr John doubles as the publisher and the editor-in-chief of The Ink, a local newspaper in the state.
Mr John’s lawyer, Ekemini Udim, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the charge against the journalist has been struck out.
“When the matter came up, counsel for the state was not in court. He has been repeatedly absent from court since October last year, and the complainant, that is the deputy governor, was not also in court,” Mr Udim told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The law requires that the complainant must be in court, the prosecution must also be in court. So, when it turned out that none of them was in court today, I had to cite the provision of the law and asked the magistrate to strike out the charge in view of the circumstances.
“The magistrate agreed with the position of the law and then struck out the charge,” the lawyer said.
Immediately the case against him was struck out, Mr John took to Facebook to say thank you to the people who stood by him during the trial.
The journalist said Michael Bush, a popular broadcaster in the state, helped in bringing about a “truce” between him and the deputy governor, Mr Ekpo.
He said he has learnt “every lesson needed to be learnt”.