Court denies bail to lawyer charged with terrorism for criticising governor

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The Federal High Court, Calabar, on Wednesday denied bail to Joseph Odok, a Nigerian lawyer and an avowed critic of the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade.

Odok was arrested on September 26 in Abuja and taken to Calabar by road. His arrest and incarceration is believed to have been instigated by the governor, Ben Ayade, because of his constant criticism of the Cross River government.

Odok’s lawyer, Oliver Osang, told reporters that the court presided by Justice Simon Amobeda ruled against their bail application on the grounds that “we have not shown exceptional circumstances in which he should be granted bail”.

Odok’s bail application was based on health grounds.

The judge, Amobeda, however, said the court was open to receiving any “fact available” from the defence counsel that could lead to a review of its ruling on the bail application. We will still pursue it (the bail application),” Osang said.

Odok was present in the court, so was the prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba, a deputy superintendent of police.

The court last month rejected an application by the Nigerian police to withdraw the charges against Odok, saying it was the attorney general of the federation, and not the police, that has the power to withdraw the charges.

The lawyer is accused of inciting some communities in Cross River against one another which the police said was capable of undermining the security of the state and punishable under The Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.

He is also charged with cybercrime for allegedly accusing the chief of staff to Ayade, Martin Orim, of being a cultist.

He pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge.

Odok’s Facebook page contains critical remarks on Ayade. In one of his posts on the social media site in September, Odok described the governor as a ‘joker”’

“Ayade keep getting it wrong with lofty projects. Why talk of Spaghetti flyover when you have not maintained or completed a single road project from your first administration?

“A man that can’t complete a single road keeps talking Super High Way, Deep Sea Port and now Spaghetti flyover. This joke is getting out of hands,” he wrote on Facebook.

Gov. Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, had denied the governor’s involvement in the arrest and detention of Odok.

“It’s wrong for people to describe as the governor’s critic, anyone arrested by the police. The governor does not know anything about his arrest, the police are in a better position to tell you why they have arrested him,” Ita said.

Another critic of Governor Ayade, Agba Jalingo, is facing treason trial over a report published in his newspaper, alleging that the governor diverted N500 million belonging to the Cross River state government.

Jalingo, a journalist and publisher of an online newspaper, CrossRiverWatch, is currently remanded in the Calabar prison.

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