A Chief magistrate court sitting in Calabar and presided over by Rita Marshall has adjourned its ruling on a no case submission filed by the defendants in case number MC/428C/19.
The defendants, Jonathan Ugbal and Jeremiah Archibong, are the News Editor and Managing Editor of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper based in Cross River State.
The duo are facing three counts charges bordering on conspiracy, unlawful assembly and conduct that cause breach of public peace after they were arrested on August 5, 2019 near the venue of the #RevolutionNow protest convened by Sahara Reporters founder, Omoyele Sowore.
The matter was adjourned to today for a ruling but those in court were shocked when the presiding magistrate said, “The ruling is not ready, so, you have to take a date.”
The court clerk suggested August 25, which was agreed by both counsels, James Ibor for the defendants and Inspector Stella Effiom for the prosecution.
There are concerns that the case was being tele-guided by state actors as Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services as well as top police officers including the chief prosecutor in the state command, DSP Dennis Tarhemba, were in court for the matter and are said to have tried to meet the presiding magistrate before the court sat.
The duo had spent two nights in detention before they were first arraigned on August 7, 2019 with the matter suffering several setbacks.
Jonathan is said to have arrived the venue for the #RevolutionNow protest in the morning of August 5, 2019 on his way to work to report on it but was arrested by the Anti-Cultism and Kidnapping Squad who claimed he had knowledge of the protest beforehand and therefore was part of the planning.
Archibong and Nicholas Kalu, a correspondent with The Nation newspapers, then visited the unit to inquire why he was arrested and were both detained.
However, Mr. Kalu was released shortly before midnight of August 5.
After several adjournments, the arresting police officer, DSP Igini Chukwuma, and the investigating police officer, Sergeant Aaron Adie, testified before the court.
Chukwuma told the court that he was ordered to arrest anyone, who approached the venue and having seen Jonathan, decided to “take him in.”
He said he was later ordered to transfer him to the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department which he did and had no knowledge of the investigations after that.
Sergeant Adie in his testimony denied knowledge of the fact that the duo were journalists and could not explain why only two out of the three were charged to court.
Also, he said he neither knew the source of livelihood of the duo nor their addresses.
Counsel to the defendants, Kehole Enya, proceeded to file a no case to answer submission, which was adopted on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.
He prayed the court to acquit and discharge the duo as the police had failed to prove their case.