An Ikot Ekpene High Court presided over by Hon Justice Ntong Ntong, Tuesday November 28, 2017, granted bail to a former Councillor in Essien Udim local government area, Hon Emmanuel Ben Umoh and two other accused persons, who were in prison custody, following their remand by a Magistrate Court. They were being remanded following charges of membership of cult groups, murder, conspiracy slammed on them by the state.
While granting the application of the Counsel, Mr. Ifiok Udofia, in Case number HT/Misc.37/2017, to the accused person, seeking the grant of bail to the accused persons, the court noted that the main consideration for bail is ensure the attendance of the accused person to court to face his charge. The court said that bail was at the exclusive discretion of the court, which must be applied judicially and judiciously.
“Discretion is not a tea, bread and butter jamboree. It follows the law. The applicants need to make adequate materials available to the court, from which the court exercises its discretion”, the Judge said, adding that the accused persons have placed adequate materials before the court.
Satisfied that the applicants have met the requirements of the law for bail, the court granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N5m each, with a surety each in like sum. The Surtees must be reputable and responsible persons resident within the Akwa Ibom state judicial division, swear to an affidavit of means. Information on them must be verified by the registrar.
They were directed to upon release to appear before the court on December 12, 2017 for further observation.
The accused person have been in prison custody since February 2017, when they were arrested for various offenses bothering on cultism, intimidation, harassment and murder. The state is yet to file any information before the High Court for the commencement of their trial.
In an aside to the State Counsel, who handled the case, the Judge advised the state government to do the needful by following the law in its fight against cultism, adding that the strict compliance with section 75 of the Criminal Code Law of Akwa Ibom state on which society could be classified as unlawful is germane. He noted that the section places it on the governor to list the names of any such groups and formally gazette their classification as illegal groups. Until then, no one can in the eyes of the law say that any group is a cult group or an illegal organization.