The two remaining students of University of Uyo who were part of the 44 innocent students arbitrarily arrested by the Nigeria Police on June 12, 2013, are on their way out of the Uyo Prison after eight months of incarceration. They are; Ita Asuquo Essien of the Department of Petroleum Engineering, and David Uko of the Department of Political Science.
They were granted bail earlier today after a protracted legal battle by the presiding/trial, Hon. Justice Joy Unwana of Court 7, Akwa Ibom State High Court Uyo.
Ruling on David Uko’s bail application, the judge held that the medical report tendered showed that he had health problems which he has not been able to attend to in prison and that the prosecution having not countered the medical report was bound by same, this fact the judge held shows Special Circumstance to necessitate granting of bail despite that murder- a capital offence, is one of the charges.
Secondly, the judge held that from the Proof of Evidence, there is nothing linking or connecting the accused to the charges. On the contrary, evidence before the court showed clearly that David Uko only saw people protesting but never took part in the demonstration and rioting. The judge stated that if the mere fact of seeing people protesting was evidence of ones participation, then many lecturers, students and others who witnessed the riot should also be on trial.
On this basis, the judge admitted David Uko to bail in the sum of 1 million naira and a surety in like sum who must have a landed property within the jurisdiction of the court.
Ruling on Ita Asuquo Essien’s application for bail, the judge also held that from the Proof of Evidence, there was nothing linking or connecting the 5th accused/applicant to the charges and that the prosecution could not show by evidence his involvement in the crimes of June 12.
It was established by evidence that he was arrested along Ikpa Road in Uyo while coming out of a cyber cafe. This the judge said was evidence of nothing. She was of the view that it will mean that all those who were in Ikpa Road during the duration of the riot took part in it if the submission of the prosecution was accepted.
On this basis, the judge admitted Ita Asuquo Essien to bail in the sum of 1 million naira with a surety who must be a person of integrity.
The prosecution counsel was visibly embarrassed by the lack of evidence in the case. The judge held that she had failed to show that the accused persons will not be available to stand trial if granted bail. The two of them are to perfect their bail conditions with the Registrar of court.
During the proceedings, the judge requested the Registrar of court to effect service of the information on accused persons (about 30 of them) who were in court, some with their lawyers while others have no lawyers.
The judge commended the conduct of the accused/students who have been attending court sessions even without being served.
The trial of the UNIUYO 44 was consequently adjourned to the 12th of March, 2014.
Commending the judge after the hearing Inibehe Effiong said:
“I sincerely appreciate the learned trial judge who has once again lived-up to her reputation as a just and fearless judge.
I however wish to express my surprise at the lack of interest of the students, media, human rights community and general public in this case. This is another lesson for me in the course of the struggle.
I commend the section of the media, especially online media, who have stood by us this far.
May I inform the recalcitrant authorities that we will stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with and support of these poor students to the end. If they insist on continuing with this madness, we will be there to expose their wickedness.