A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, has granted the request of the prosecution to mask its witness in the suit between the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), representing the state, and agba Jalingo.
In its ruling, the court, presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda, on Thursday relied on sections 33 and 34 of theTerrorismPrevention and Amendment Act, 2013, as well as international conventions, including those of the United Nations (UN) and African Commission of Human and People’s Rights, to grant the plea of the prosecution.
Under the conventions, the public and the media will not be allowed into the courtroom when the witness is testifying, Justice Amobeda ruled.
He also held that the witness will testify behind curtains in a cubicle and to a camera. The defendant and his counsel will also not be privy to the name, alias or any other detail of the witness, the judge held.
The prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba, on October 11, 2019, filed a motion seeking the amendment of charges and to protect the witness in the matter.
The prosecution sought the order based on sections 33 and 34 of the Terrorism Prevention and Amendment Act, 2013; Section 216, sub-section 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
The motion was supported by an eight-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Inspector Ihezuo Ibe and accompanied by a written address.
During the hearing, the counsel to the defendant, James Ibor, submitted that the defendant did not constitute a threat.
The lawyer faulted the application for the masking of the witness, saying there was no proper evidence as to when, where and how the witness was threatened.
He averred that the person said to have carried out the threat was not named, even as he posited that masking the witness would not be in the interest of justice.
The matter was adjourned till October 30, 2019 for commencement of trial.
Jalingo was remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service where he has spent 29 days, besides 34 days he had spent in police custody.