Jones Abiri

A magistrate court sitting in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, has softened the condition of bail granted to Mr Jones Abiri, a journalist who was secretly detained by the Department of State Services for over two years without trial.

The magistrate, Chukwuemeka Nweke, on Wednesday, gave the ruling after listening to arguments from the defence counsel, Samuel Ogala; and the DSS prosecuting counsel, Jamilu Amisu.

Ogala urged the court to vary the bail conditions on liberal terms and consider the fact that the defendant had been in the custody of the DSS for over two years.

His argument was based on the grounds that the maximum sentence for the alleged crime, if proven, was two years, which the defendant had already spent in detention.

Ogala, therefore, stated that there was no reason to think he would jump bail as he had served the maximum term.

Amisu, the DSS counsel, however, rejected the application of the defendant urging the court to discountenance the request of the defendant as argued in his written address and counter-affidavit.

The magistrate said there was no reason not to grant bail to the journalist but took note of the argument that he might jump bail and varied the bail conditions considering the weight of the allegations levied against Abiri.

The court subsequently ruled that Abiri was required to produce two sureties one of whom must be a level eight civil servant. The surety is to present a bank statement, letter of appointment and letter of last promotion.

In the alternative, Abiri may produce two sureties of whom one must be an executive member in the Nigeria Union of Journalists, who must own a property in Abuja. The address of the surety must be verifiable by the court.

Earlier last Thursday, Nweke had granted the journalist bail in the sum of N2m. Abiri, who had been in the DSS custody, was arraigned for the first time since his arrest in July 2016.

The DSS accused Abiri of being a militant and a leader of the Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, which has separatist inclinations and known ties with criminal gangs.

The agency alleged that the defendant, who is the publisher of Weekly Source Magazine, had confessed and owned up to vandalising and bombing oil pipelines belonging to international oil companies, Agip and Shell, in early July 2016 and sending threat messages to the management of both oil companies demanding a total of N750m payment.

The court adjourned the matter till August 16, 2018.

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