The trial of a journalist, Egena Sunday Ode, has been moved from the Chief Magistrate Court to the Benue State High Court in Makurdi.
The High Court summons was served on Ode right inside the Chief Magistrate Courtroom in Makurdi on Tuesday by the police prosecutor when he appeared before the court in continuation of his trial.
Led by Barrister Sunday Ojikpa Okpale, no fewer than five lawyers entered appearance for Mr Ode at the Magistrate Court.
The appearance of the army of lawyers to defend the journalist made the presiding Magistrate, Vincent Kor, to curiously ask why the huge representation, to which Barrister Okpale replied: “It is due to the colossal status of the defendant.”
Ode was arraigned before the Magistrate Court on July 9, 2021 after his abduction in Abuja and forceful trasfer in the midnight to Makurdi on April 30, 2021 by the police.
Ode, who is the president of Igede Media Professionals, is standing trial for the association’s critical position on the handling of the lingering Bonta-Ukpute crisis.
In the High Court summons, the journalist is being accused of making defamatory and inciting publications against Governor Samuel Ortom and the Benue State government.
Aside from loss of lives and property, the Bonta-Ukpute conflict has led to the closure of Awajir-Oju road that gives direct access from Oju local government area to Makurdi, the Benue State capital by Bonta militias.
Recall that Bonta and Ukpute communities of Konshisha and Oju local government areas respectively, have been at war for over a year.
Governor Ortom has called several peace meetings aimed at resolving the communal crisis but the matter still remains largely unsettled as there were reports of attacks on Ukpute and Igede speaking Ochoro community in Konshisha LGA after the last peace meeting held only a month ago.
Two pastors from Ochoro were reportedly killed in the last attack on the community by their Bonta neighbours.
Speaking to journalists, Ode urged AIMPs members to sheathe their swords and remain calm, describing his trial as a cross that the association should carry with pride and dignity regardless of the outcome.
He said: “I’ll tell members of Association of Igede Media Professionals to remain calm in all their locations across the country at this critical moment of our existence as a group.
“This trial and whatever may be its outcome is the price that we need to pay for the dignity of our people. We have chosen to tow that path and our God will give us the strength we need in order to carry on with the struggle.”