Terrorism seems like a ridiculous charge to bring against a lawyer, but this is the Nigeria we are living in under president Buhari. It is even more disappointing when you realise that the charges of Terrorism brought against lawyer and activist Joseph Odok, was the work of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state, a PDP run state. Odok was a strong critic of Ayade’s governance in Cross River state and had used social media to amplify his criticism of the governor. An arrest and arraignment by the state secret service soon followed and Odok was detained without a charge for months.
After pressure from citizens, the Cross River state judiciary has finally charged Odok with terrorism, a charge that makes little sense in light of his actions against the governor. His case is now presided on by Justice Simon Amobeda who has ruled in favour of Odok being granted bail. Amobeda set bail, in spite of the pleas of the Cross River State state command to withhold bail.
The terms set for Odok’s bail include a bond valued at N10m with two sureties in like sum and one of the sureties must be a civil servant with either the state or Federal Government on Grade Level 13 or above while the other must be a “close relative with a verifiable address.”
Odok is only one two political prisoners in custody as a result of criticisms of Governor Ben Ayade. Agba Jalingo, a Lagos based journalist was arrested in Lagos and taken to Calabar on accusations of treason. Jalingo has been denied bail several times already and continues to remain hopeful. With Odok’s release, there is hope that the judiciary will listen to reason and also drop Jalingo’s charges or at least grant him bail.
The impunity of the government in Buhari’s era will be a blemish against his government unless the presidency finally sits up and insists that the judiciary do its job.