Agba Jalingo, publisher of CrossRiverWatch, has asked the federal high court to reassign his case to another judge.
Jalingo, who is standing trial on charges bordering on conspiracy, terrorism, treasonable felony and attempt to topple the government of Cross River, said Simon Amobeda, the judge hearing the case, can no longer be trusted.
Jalingo’s demand comes after Amobeda was caught in a leaked audio saying the journalist’s life was in the court’s hands.
The judge had accused Olumide Fusika, Jalingo’s counsel, of arrogance and attempting to intimidate the court.
In a letter dated November 27 and addressed to John Tsoho, chief judge of the federal high court in Abuja, Jalingo said Amobeda had repeatedly made statements implying that judgment in his court is a matter of favour rather than law and justice.
“As Justice Simon Amobeda also reportedly stated in the secret audio recording, the charge on which he is to try me ‘is a criminal matter that the punishment carries death penalty.’ The charge I am to face trial on is based on some trumped-up allegations by Governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State, and I am eager to meet it head-on-head and defend myself and establish my innocence before the court of law and justice,” he wrote in the letter.
“However, I see no chance of fair trial for me in my case when the judge before whom the case (and my fate) lies is one whose understanding of justice, and the dispensation of it, is depicted in the above statements and comments, among many others alike made by Justice Amobeda in the secret audio recording.
“It is therefore my humble plea to your good office to help secure my constitutional right to fair hearing by reassigning my case to another judge that has a better appreciation of the call of justice which, in my case, includes the solemn one of determining, like God Almighty, whether I live or die. I beg that the reassignment should be to a judge outside the Calabar division, thus making him less susceptible to local political pressure.”
Jalingo was first arraigned in August following a story he published on how Ayade allegedly approved and diverted N500 million meant for Cross River State Microfinance Bank.