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Alleged Cybercrime: Agba Jalingo’s Arraignment Shifted To March 27 Over Article On Ayade’s Sister-In-Law

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A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and presided over by Justice Zainab Abubakar has adjourned the arraignment of Nigerian journalist and activist, Citizen Agba Jalingo until March 27, 2023, to query him whether he was served his charge sheet with proof of evidence or not.

The charge sheet in suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022 showed two-count charge bordering on false publication intended to cause, “annoyance, ill will and insult,” on the person of Mrs. Elizabeth Alami Ayade, wife of Mr. Frank Ayade, the younger brother to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.

He is alleged to have committed an offense punishable by Section 24 (1)b of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.

The matter was slated for arraignment and plea. However, Citizen Jalingo failed to turn up in Court with the prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbobe Esq. seeking a bench warrant to produce him.

Mr. Ogbobe told the Court that the defendant was on Police administrative bail. He said the charge sheet and arraignment notice have been served on him. He argued that no good reason has been given by the defendants for his absence and asked the Court to grant a short date for arraignment, promising to ensure that the defendant is in Court after the Court guided him that his request for a bench warrant will not be granted.

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The defense counsel led by Marshal Abubakar Esq. said the defense team was in Court out of courtesy and in line with the ethics of the profession as Citizen Jalingo was only sent a WhatsApp message on Monday which informed him of the Court date.

He said the defendant has not been served the charge and charged the prosecution to show proof of service especially as the arraignment notice which was signed by the prosecuting council claimed the charge sheet and proof of evidence were attached.

While Mr. Abubakar was seeking leave of Court to undertake service in Court on behalf of the defendant, the prosecution objected, saying they had proof that the defendant had been served.

However, Justice Abubakar insisted that the Court will rather ask the defendant if he has been served when he is arraigned, hence there was no need for the defense counsel to undertake to be served in Court. Further efforts by Mr. Abubakar to give more details about Citizen Jalingo’s absence were also overruled.

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The matter was subsequently adjourned until March 27, 2023, for arraignment.

One of his counsels, F. Baba Isa Esq told CrossRiverWatch that Citizen Jalingo had booked his flight to be in Abuja but failed to utilize the ticket as he is ill. He said all arrangements will be made to ensure that he appears in Court at the next adjourned date.

The Background

Mrs. Ayade who was in Court on Tuesday, had in July 2022, through her lawyer, Uyi Frank Obayagbona Esq written to Mr. Jalingo seeking a retraction of an article that queried why a suspended staff of the University of Calabar, Paschal Aboh Esq was facing trial for impersonating a student of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus while the person who allegedly contracted him (Mrs. Ayade) was walking free.

She asked for an apology to be published in two national dailies, including, but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, and Cross River Watch (not CrossRiverWatch) as well as NGN 500 million in damages. He was given fourteen days to comply otherwise legal proceedings will be instituted against him.

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However, Police from the FCT Command on August 19, 2022, stormed the Ogudu, in Lagos State residence of Citizen Jalingo, and arrested him, several hours after holding his wife and daughter hostage.

He was subsequently detained at the Alapere police station and later, at Area F Command in Ikeja before he was flown to Abuja the next day where it was revealed that Mrs. Ayade had abandoned the civil approach and rather petitioned him for allegedly defaming her character.

He was released later that night and when asked to return two days later on August 22nd, was asked to go back to Lagos since Mrs. Ayade failed to show up.

However, news filtered in, in January 2023, that the Police abandoned the criminal defamation case and opted to sue Citizen Jalingo for alleged cyber crimes.

Comrade James Ezema is a veteran journalist and media consultant. He is a political strategist. He can be reached on +2348035823617 via call or WhatsApp.

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