Thursday, 28 November 2019

Again, court shifts ruling on bail application of Ayade’s critic, Joseph Odok to December 5

28 November 2019 

A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, the Cross River State capital and presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda has for the second time in eight days, shifted the ruling on the bail application of Joseph Odok, a lawyer and critic of the Governor of that state, Benedict Ayade.

Justice Amobeda had in his ruling of November 13th after hearing the argument for bail, set November 21 for ruling on the bail application.

However, a hearing notice issued on Tuesday, November 20th informed the parties involved that the ruling will now be given on November 27th.

Odok, donned in a brown colored traditional attire arrived the Court premises at about 9:04AM in the company of other inmates and about half a dozen correctional officers in a green van marked "Calabar Prisons."

He greeted friends and sympathizers who cheered him while cuffed and proceeded to the Courtroom where the cuffs were released just before he entered.

But, his case was not listed. He could be heard communicating with friends lamenting the disposition of the Judge and wondered why a hearing notice was not issued before Wednesday.

"He was visibly angry but insisted that he will be patient till the next adjourned date even as he wondered why the ruling took so long to prepare," Jonathan Ugbal, a journalist who was present told colleagues.

"From what he said, the Judge complained that he was swarmed with cases and could not complete the ruling especially as he had a judgment to prepare. The reading of that judgment which saw a young man awarded five million in damages after a stray bullet from the police caught his pelvic region in an operation of April 8, 2013 in Calabar took over 45 minutes," Jonathan added.

Justice Amobeda is expected to rule on the bail application on Wednesday, December 5, 2019.

This means Odok remains remanded at the medium security custodial center in Calabar where he has spent 37 days so far.

He was arrested at his Abuja residence on September 26, 2019 and endured what family members say was a tortuous journey by road to Calabar where he was then detained at a black site facility.

He spent seven days in the facility before the Police approached the Calabar division of the Federal High Court seeking an order to detain him for 90 days on October 4, 2019.

The prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba, a Deputy Superintendent of Police said the order will aid the Police to travel with the defendant within and outside the jurisdiction of the Court to retrieve items that will aid their case.

According to the application, Odok was charged with criminal conspiracy, rape, treasonable felony, terrorism and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Justice Amobeda in his ruling granted 45 days with an option for renewal.

However, ten days later on October 14th, the Police filed two charges against Odok bordering on terrorism and cyberstalking.

Charge one read: "That you Joseph Odok 'm' and others now at large on or between the month of July – August 2019 in Calabar and Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did incite Cross Riverians to declare full blown war between the people of Ugep Osokom and Oku people of Cross River against themselves and carry out various unlawful acts to wit: terrorism, which you knew are capable of undermining the state security of Cross River and Federal Republic of Nigeria and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (2) (a) (b) and (h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013."

Charge two read: "That you Joseph Odok 'm' on or about in the month of July – August 2019 at Abuja and Calabar within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did publish a false statement on Social Media on your Facebook account titled "Why Martins Orim must call his cult brother 'General Iron' to order" in order to cause alarm, hatred and disturb public peace in Cross River State for the purpose of bringing the reputation of Martins Orim down. All this in a bid to annoy him which you knew it will cause insult, enmity, hatred and ill will and incite the people of Cross River State to lunch an attack on him and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 24 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes Prohibition Prevention Act, 2015."

Martin Orim is the Chief of Staff to Governor Ben Ayade. He, alongside two ex security aides of Ayade, Jude Ngaji who served as state security adviser and Raphael Odu who was a director in Homeland Security department, were fingered in an alleged assassination attempt on Mr. Odok in September 2017.

He was eventually arraigned on October 22, 2019 where he pleaded "not guilty" to both charges.

In what was a sudden twist, the Police approached the court to withdraw the matter following a directive from the Inspector General of Police.

Tarhemba had told the Court that the police headquarters in Abuja want Mr. Odok and the case transferred to them for a thorough investigation.

But, Justice Amobeda in his ruling of Wednesday, November 13th struck out the application.

Justice Amobeda held that it was only the Attorney General of the federation that had the power to withdraw cases already on trial.

Odok's Facebook page is replete with criticisms of Ayade's government.

His wife, Cecilia Odok had told Premium Times in an interview that the Cross River State government was behind his travails, an allegation Ayade's spokesman, Christian Ita denied.

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