A Chief Magistrates’ Court In Wuse, Abuja, on Monday struck out a suit filed against a journalist, Jones Abiri, for lack of jurisdiction.
The magistrate, Chukwuma -Machukwu Nweke, stated at the resumed trial that the offence for which the journalist was arraigned before the court amounted to criminal intimidation under the Criminal Code and the court could not entertain the trial because the offences were allegedly committed outside its jurisdiction.
The ruling followed an application brought by Abiri’s lawyer, Samuel Ogala, that the court should transfer his trial to Bayelsa State, since that was where he was arrested.
Abiri, the publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Weekly Source newspaper, was being tried by State Security Service (SSS) for alleged links to armed militancy in the Niger Delta.
The journalist, who spent two years in custody without trial was awarded N10.5m damages last week by the Federal High Court in Abuja over his unlawful detention.
Nweke said the offence Abiri is accused of criminal intimidation under the Criminal Code Act allegedly committed in Bayelsa State which falls outside the territorial jurisdiction of a Wuse Chief Magistrate Court.
He said, “That no element of the alleged offence of criminal intimidation took place within the Federal Capital Territory.
I uphold in this honourable court the jurisdiction to hear the first information, which was filed against the applicants.
“That the court has the duty to uphold doctrine of fair hearing, which guarantees that an accused is charged within the territorial jurisdiction.
“That the first information report as presently presented is an abuse of process of this honourable court. Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended reads: “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority,
a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
Lawyer to the 2nd defendant, Collins Truman, had in a preliminary objection filed a two paragraph affidavit and a written address, that the court lacks the power to transfer the matter to Bayelsa State.
Truman added that he had filed a reply of point of law, that it is only after the motion that the court would form an opinion whether it has the jurisdiction to try an offence or not.
Nweke said that it is under the jurisdiction of the court to look at the offence before it and have found that none of the alleged offences was within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.
The magistrate said, “It is therefore deemed that the prosecution is not disputing the facts that all elements of the alleged offence occurred in Bayelsa State.
“This court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this matter and I hereby strike out this case.”