Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Court in Nigerai acquits publisher of cybercrime

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday discharged and acquitted a Nigerian publisher, Agba Jalingo, of cybercrime.

Mr Jalingo, who publishes an online newspaper, CrossRiverWatch, was prosecuted by the Nigeria police over a 30 June 2022 Facebook post in which he alleged that Alami Ayade, the wife to the younger brother of the former governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, contracted someone to write law examination for her at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.

The article was also published on CrossRiverWatch, the police said.

The police arrested Mr Jalingo in August 2022 after laying siege for hours at his Lagos residence.

Mr Jalingo was arraigned in 2023 before Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who remanded him at the Medium Security Custodial Center, Kuje. The court later granted him bail.
‘Discharged and acquitted’

The CrossRiverWatch broke the news on Monday morning about the Federal High Court judgment which reportedly discharged and acquitted Mr Jalingo of cybercrime.

The judge, Joyce Abdulmalik, found Mr Jalingo not guilty of the crimes the police accused him of, according to a report by the newspaper.

Mr Jalingo told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday afternoon, that he was very happy with the court judgment. “I was being persecuted, not prosecuted,” he said.

“When the prosecution finished their case, we (had) entered a no-case submission, so the court ruled today that they (the prosecution) only came to waste the time of the court,” he said.

“This case had given me sleepless nights because there are many things that I wanted to do which I couldn’t.”

Mr Jalingo said following the advice of a respected traditional ruler and other people in Cross River, he had sought an out-of-court settlement with Mrs Ayade, including visiting her to beg her over the matter, but she refused.

“I am very happy that the court has given this judgment. This judgment is a victory for the Nigerian media because this is a law that has been used to harass those of us who are journalists,” he added.

PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr Jalingo if he was certain about the contentious issues in his article against Mrs Ayade.

“I was (certain),” he retorted. “I couldn’t go out there and lie against anybody.”

PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach Mrs Ayade for her comment.

Mr Jalingo is not new to criminal prosecution over his journalism work.

He was arrested in August 2019 and incarcerated for about 179 days in Calabar, charged with terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime for accusing the then Governor Ayade of diverting N500 million belonging to Cross River State.

Amnesty International in Nigeria had declared the journalist a prisoner of conscience and had accused the Nigerian government of manipulating the nation’s justice system against him. 

By Cletus Ukpong, Premium Times

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