The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, granted bail to a journalist and publisher of an online news outlet, CrossRiverWatch, Agba Jalingo, to the tune of N500,000, with one surety in like sum.
Jalingo was accused of defaming Elizabeth Ayade, wife of Frank Ayade, who is the brother of Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/565/2022, he was accused of publishing an article that was considered an insult to Mrs Ayade’s personality which is punishable under Section 24 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.
Jalingo was specifically accused of engaging in a false publication that was intended to annoy, ill will and insult to the person of Mrs Ayade.
It will be recalled that the nominal complainant, Mrs Ayade, had in 2022, asked Mr Jalingo to retract an article which she considered offensive.
Jalingo had in the said article, questioned why Paschal Aboh, was facing trial for allegedly impersonating a student of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus identified as Mrs Ayade, while the person (Mrs Ayade) that allegedly contracted him, walked free.
Angered by the publication, Mrs Ayade, through her lawyer, demanded a retraction and an apology to be published in two national dailies and social media platforms, as well as the payment of N500 million to her as damages.
Following Mrs Ayade’s petition, Police arrested Jalingo and later released him on administrative bail, and subsequently preferred a two-count charge against him before the high court.
At the resumed proceedings on Thursday, the defendant however pleaded not guilty to the charge against him.
The defendant, through his team of lawyers led by Femi Falana, SAN, applied to be released on bail pending the determination of the case against him.
Police lawyer, Mr Fidelis Ogbobe did not oppose the application.
The court granted him bail to the tune of N500,000. Aside from the N500,000 bail bond, trial Justice Abubakar held that the surety must be an owner of a landed property within the Federal Capital Territory.
The judge ordered that the title deed of the said property must be deposited with the Deputy Registrar in charge of litigations of the Courts.
Besides, the court held that the surety must also depose an affidavit of means.
Adjourning the case till May 31 for trial, Justice Abubakar held that the defendant should remain in prison custody, pending the perfection of his bail conditions.