A High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Monday, May 18, 2020, has reduced bail conditions of Kufre Carter, a sports journalist who has been in the custody of the State Security Service, SSS, since April 27.
Carter was arraigned on a three-count charge at a magistrate court in Uyo and accused of making defamatory remarks against the Commissioner for Health in Akwa Ibom State, Dominic Ukpong.
According to Premium Times, one of the charges against Mr Carter reads, “That you Kufre Carter Akpan and another now at large sometimes in the month of April, 2020, in Uyo Local Government Area, within the Uyo Magisterial District did record defamatory words against Dr. Dominic Ukpong, the Hon. Commissioner for Health, Akwa Ibom State, while castigating him on the fight against Covid-19 in the state which recording you caused to go viral and be played on social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and other places with the intent to injure his reputation by exposing him to ridicule, hatred and contempt knowing same to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 382(1) and punishable under Section 388 of the Criminal Code, Cap 38, Vol. 2 Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria”.
The court, presided by Winifred Umohandi, granted Carter N3 million bail after he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court ruled that Mr Carter should provide a surety who is either a permanent secretary with the Akwa Ibom State government or a civil servant on grade level 17, in addition to providing a letter from his village head attesting to his identity.
On Monday, May 18, at the Court presided by Justice Archibong Archibong, ruled in favour of the accused, vacating all the stringent bail conditions earlier imposed on by Chief Magistrate Umohandy.
Justice Archibong agreed that the Chief Magistrate did not exercise discretion judicially and judiciously and that the bail conditions were “stringent”, excessive” and “unaffordable”.
Counsel to Mr Carter, Barr. Inibehe Effiong posted on Facebook saying: “Indeed, Monday’s ruling was a great lecture on the jurisprudence of bail. The ruling should be read carefully by lawyers, law students and every interested person.
“We will make the Certified True Copy available at the earliest possible time. The ruling is lucid, sound, convincing, expository and legally rooted.
“The High Court also set aside the requirement that our client should obtain a letter of identification from the village head. The Court equally reduced the bail bond from N3, 000, 000.00 (Three Million Naira) to N200, 000 (Two Hundred Thousand Naira).
“We are excited with the ruling and the fresh bail conditions imposed on Kufre Carter. Indeed, before close of work on Monday, we were fully ready to perfect the bail conditions. We have ALL what is required to perfect the bail of Kufre as stated in the fresh bail conditions.
“There is no problem at all with the fresh bail conditions. Everything is ready. However, we are hopeful that the administrative procedures will be concluded on Tuesday, 19th May, 2020,” Barr. Effiong posted.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Uwoko Esq., has filed a Notice of Appeal along with a Motion for Stay of Execution in an effort to keep Carter in the custody of the SSS.
Barr. Effiong while displaying his disbelief at the move, said he will ‘respond without delay’ on the application.
“We are deeply astonished that the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State is challenging the variation of the stringent, excessive and unaffordable bail conditions imposed on our client by the Chief Magistrate. This is uncommon and uncanny in the legal profession.
“As lawyers, we will respond without delay to their application for stay of execution. We cannot comment publicly on the merit of same. We will allow the Honourable Court to decide on the merits of same.
“It is however a tragedy of historic proportion that the Executive Arm of Government in Akwa Ibom State has taken this scandalous route.”
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