The secret trial of journalist and Rights activist, Agba Jalingo commenced on Tuesday at the Calabar division of the Federal High court, with lawyers, journalists and health officials asked to leave the court.
Journalists filming and photographing the set up of a stage for the masquerade witnesses scheduled to testify at the trial were chased away by Court officials and policemen.
Three Lawyers in Jalingo’s defense team were also asked to leave the Courtroom at the instance of the prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba. Likewise, the correctional officers who accompanied Jalingo from the custodial center were also asked out of the Courtroom.
The trial started on Tuesday afternoon after the court upheld its decision to try journalist and rights activist Agba Jalingo in secret.
In an application, Jalingo’s counsel, Adeyinka Olumide-fusika (SAN), had asked the court to modify t’s order of October 23, 2019 to mask witnesses in the case.
But ruling on the matter, Justice Simon Amobeda held that the court cannot sit as on appellate on its own decision.
Justice Amobeda stated that though there are exceptional cases to that position of law, Jalingo’s counsel failed to cite those cases in his argument.
Olumide-fusika had in his argument on October 30th submitted that the names, addresses and other details of six out of seven witnesses were already stated in the prosecution’s proof of evidence and while relying on a paragraph of the ruling which said the order to mask witnesses can be modified, urged the Court to vary or modify its order to be restricted to witness seven marked as ‘XYZ’ in the proof of evidence.
But, Justice Amobeda in his ruling said it agrees with the prosecution that the application of the defense was an invitation to the Court to sit on appeal on its own order and asked the defense to approach the Appeal Court.
Jalingo is standing trial on charges bordering on conspiracy, terrorism, treasonable felony and attempt to topple the Cross River State government for his writing and social media posts questioning how the sum of N500m approved and released for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance bank was spent by the cross Rivers state government.