A High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, has granted bail to a bank official who was remanded in prison for allegedly publishing “damaging and annoying” articles on Facebook against Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel.
The bank official, Michael Itok, 21, was granted N500,000 bail on Thursday by the court presided by Justice Archibong Archibong, after spending 23 days in Uyo prison.
His lawyer, Imo Akpan, filed the case at the High Court, seeking his release from custody.
Mr Itok, a marketer with Prudential Microfinance Bank, Uyo, was arrested on October 8 by the State Security Service, SSS, and detained for 48 days before he was taken to a magistrate court in Uyo, November 26.
Mr Itok, according to his Facebook profile, claimed he had worked as a steward to Governor Emmanuel.
He was accused of writing numerous articles against the Akwa Ibom governor and other officials of the state government.
The attorney general of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko represented the state during Thursday’s proceedings in the High Court. He did not oppose Mr Itok’s bail application.
“I didn’t oppose the bail, I told the court I am not opposing his bail but let the court give conditions to ensure that he appears in court and answer charges,” Mr Nwoko said.
Mr Nwoko told PREMIUM TIMES Mr Itok committed “criminal blackmail against the governor and his family”.
What Mr Itok did is not criticism, the state attorney general said.
“When you want to criticise, you criticise issues, it is allowed in any democracy.
“When you begin to probe into the private life of a person and begin to raise allegations bordering on morality which you cannot substantiate that is not addressing the person’s responsibilities as a governor or as a public officer,” he said.
The charge at the magistrate court against the bank marketer reads, “That you, Mr Michael Itok and another now at large, sometimes in October, 2019 at 1000 Units Housing Estate, Idu Uruan, Uruan Local Government Area, within the Uyo Magisterial District did constitute yourself into a nuisance by publishing damaging and annoying articles on your Facebook page with the aim of harassing, blackmailing and bringing to disrepute His Excellency Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and other staff of the Akwa Ibom State Government House, and thereby commits and offence punishable under Section 6(1) (f) of the Akwa Ibom State Internal Security and Enforcement Law, 2009.”
Apart from Mr Akpan who is the lead defence lawyer, other lawyers in the team are Anthony Udonsa, Nsikak Akai, Eseme Philip, and Kevin Udoma. They are representing Mr Itok pro bono in the case.