Agba Jalingo Regains Freedom In Abuja

A file photo of Agba Jalingo. Facebook/Agba Jalingo.

 

Human rights activist, Agba Jalingo, has been released from police detention.

Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, made the announcement on his verified Facebook page.

Policemen from the Force Headquarters in Abuja on Friday had stormed Jalingo’s residence Channels Television had reported.

He was later transferred to Abuja via the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja on Saturday.

Speaking with Channels Television in a telephone chat shortly after the flight, his wife, Mrs Jalingo, said “They have taken him (Jalingo) to Abuja.”

When asked what the policemen said Jalingo’s offence(s) was, his wife said, “Defamation of character and infringement of integrity on Frank Ayade’s wife, the younger brother to Cross River State, Governor Ben Ayade.”

When asked about the lawyer handling the matter, she disclosed that “Femi Falana (SAN) was in the station with us this morning and has sent his lawyers in Abuja to handle the case.”

Also, Falana, in a telephone chat, confirmed to Channels Television that he has taken over the case.

Jalingo, shortly before his arrest, had told Channels Television that the police officers surrounded his house and held down his wife and daughter.

The publisher of Cross River Watch was imprisoned in 2019 at the Afokang Prison in Calabar and was released on bail on February 17, 2020 after 179 days.

Jalingo, an associate of African Action Congress presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, had been arrested following an allegation of treason by the Cross River State Governor Benedict Ayade.

However, in March 2022, a Federal High Court in Calabar, dismissed the terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime charges against Jalingo.

Agba Jalingo’s Arrest Is ‘Official Impunity In A Democracy’ – Falana

A file photo of human rights lawyer, Femi Falana.
A file photo of human rights lawyer, Femi Falana.

 

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has described the arrest of human rights activist, Agba Jalingo, as “official impunity in a democratic society”.

In a statement he signed on Saturday and sent to Channels Television, Falana demanded the unconditional release of the activist, noting that the offence (defamation) he was accused of is not a criminal offence.

Falana’s statement titled, ‘Release Agba Jalingo Now!’ read, “Yesterday (Friday), a team of the police personnel despatched from Abuja stormed the home of Agba Jalingo at Alapere, Ketu in Lagos State to arrest him.

READ ALSO: Falana Steps In As Police Whisk Agba Jalingo To Abuja

“After subjecting his wife and children to unwarranted harassment for hours, the police arrested Agba, yanked him out and took him to the Area F Police Command, Ikeja, Lagos State where he was detained until this morning.

“I met him at the police station where he informed me that he committed no offence but that his newspaper, CrossRiverWatch had only asked why a lecturer who wrote examinations for a student in the Nigerian Law School, Abuja has been arraigned in court while the student is being treated like a sacred cow.

“The police officers corroborated his account and stated that the petitioner had alleged that Agba Jalingo had committed “defamation and infringement of his integrity”, which is not an offence under any provision of the Criminal Code.

“Based on the information at my disposal, I was compelled to demand for his unconditional release since he has contravened any provision of the Criminal Code. But the police officers informed me that his detention was ordered by the Authorities in Abuja. Thus, at about 11 am this morning he was flown out of Lagos and he is currently being detained at the Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, Abuja.

“The ongoing harassment of Agba based on the allegation that he has defamed the wife of the brother of a serving Governor is the height of official impunity in a democratic society. Since defamation is not a criminal offence the action of the Police is a flagrant breach of section 8(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and section 32(2) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 which have banned the police from arresting any person in Nigeria for civil wrong or breach of contract. Therefore, the police Authorities should release Agba Jalingo unconditionally and advise the petitioner to sue for libel in a civil court.”

Falana Steps In As Police Whisk Agba Jalingo To Abuja

A file photo of Agba Jalingo. Facebook/Agba Jalingo.

 

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has taken over a case involving the Nigeria Police Force and rights activist, Agba Jalingo, Channels Television has learnt.

The senior lawyer, it was learnt, visited Jalingo at the Area F Police Station in Ikeja where Jalingo was detained on Friday night.

The activist and publisher of Cross River Watch was, however, moved to Abuja on Saturday afternoon via the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Ikeja, the Lagos State capital.

Our correspondent gathered that a very police officer at the Force Criminal Investigative and Intelligence Department in Abuja ordered that Ayade be arrested and that he be moved down to Abuja.

Speaking with Channels Television in a telephone chat shortly after the flight, his wife, Mrs Jalingo, said “They have taken him (Jalingo) to Abuja.”

When asked what the policemen said Jalingo’s offence(s) was, his wife said, “Defamation of character and infringement of integrity on Frank Ayade’s wife, the younger brother to Cross River State, Governor Ben Ayade.”

When asked about the lawyer handling the matter, she disclosed that “Femi Falana (SAN) was in the station with us this morning and has sent his lawyers in Abuja to handle the case.”

Also, Falana, in a telephone chat, confirmed to Channels Television that he has taken over the case.

The distraught wife of the activist, however, expressed worry, saying, “Everything is getting very difficult and scary and one will definitely be apprehensive.”

Also, the Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos State, Benjamin Hundeyin, told Channels Television that the case is not with the state command but the Force Headquarters. “They came from Abuja and they have taken him away. I don’t know the details,” he said.

But a senior police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Channels Television that a very senior police officer in Abuja signed a letter and dispatched a team to arrest Jalingo.

Efforts to get the comments of Force Public Relations Officer Muyiwa Adejobi proved abortive as he was yet to respond to calls as of the time of publishing this report.

Channels Television had on Friday reported that policemen from Force Headquarters stormed Jalingo’s residence in the Alapere area of Lagos and whisked him to the Area F Police Station where he was detained overnight.

Jalingo, shortly before his arrest, had told Channels Television that the police officers surrounded his house and held down his wife and daughter.

The publisher of Cross River Watch was imprisoned in 2019 at the Afokang Prison in Calabar and was released on bail on February 17, 2020 after 179 days.

Jalingo, an associate of African Action Congress presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, had been arrested following an allegation of treason by the Cross River State Governor Benedict Ayade.

However, in March 2022, a Federal High Court in Calabar, dismissed the terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime charges against Jalingo.

Police Storm Agba Jalingo’s Lagos Residence

A file photo of Agba Jalingo. Facebook/Agba Jalingo.

 

Policemen from the Force Headquarters in Abuja on Friday stormed the residence of human rights activist, Agba Jalingo, Channels Television has learnt.

The policemen surrounded the activist’s Alapere residence in the commercial city.

In a short telephone conversation, Jalingo told Channels Television at 04:23 pm that his wife and daughter were already held down by the policemen.

He said, “Policemen just surrounded my house. About three to four of them. I don’t know who sent them and I am worried. They held my wife and my daughter down. They are asking for me.”

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The Divisional Police Officer of Alapere police station, Awe Kayode, confirmed the development in a chat with Channels Television.

According to him, the officers at the activist’s residence were sent from the Force Headquarters in Abuja.

“I am aware. He should join them and come to my office. The men are from Abuja but they will first come to my office. They booked at the Command and the Command referred them here. When they come, we will then ask,” Kayode said.

Similarly, the Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos State, Benjamin Hundeyin, told Channels Television that the men were sent from Abuja.

“The men are from Abuja; they are not from Lagos State Police Command,” the PPRO said.

When contacted, Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, said he will find out and revert.

Jalingo, who is the publisher of Cross River Watch, was imprisoned in 2019 at the Afokang Prison in Calabar. He was granted bail on February 17, 2020, after 179 days.

He had been arrested following an allegation of treason by the Cross River State Governor Benedict Ayade.

However, in March 2022, a Federal High Court in Calabar, dismissed the terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime charges against him.

SERAP Drags FG, Cross River To ECOWAS Court Over ‘Sham Trial Of Agba Jalingo’

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the government of Nigeria and Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade to ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja “over the prolonged, arbitrary detention; unfair prosecution; persecution, and sham trial of journalist Agba Jalingo.”

Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that Mr Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state.

In the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/10/2020 filed last week at the ECOWAS Court, SERAP is arguing that: “The sole objective of the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade is to perpetually keep Agba Jalingo in arbitrary detention and to silence him simply for expressing critical views and carrying out his legitimate job as journalist.”

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According to the suit: “This is not the first time the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade have taken actions to intimidate, harass and suppress journalists through the instrumentality of trumped-up charges and use of overly broad and unjust laws, including section 24 of Nigeria’s Cybercrime Act, 2015, which provides for the offence of cyber-stalking.”

The suit filed on SERAP’s behalf by its solicitor Kolawole Oluwadare, states: “the government of Nigeria and Cross-River state government are using vague laws that give officials massive discretion to undermine human rights. They are punishing Agba Jalingo and other journalists and silencing them for their reporting, thereby undermining Nigerians’ right to information, to public participation, to open and democratic governance in the country.”

The suit read, in part: “If freedom of expression and media freedom are to have true meaning in a democracy, these rights necessarily must include the freedom to criticize the government and its functionaries. Indeed, the idea of a democracy is that the people are encouraged to express their criticisms, even their wrong-headed criticisms, of elected government institutions, in the expectation that this process will improve the process of government.”

“The harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecution and arbitrary detention of Agba Jalingo simply for exercising his human rights violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which the country is a state party.”

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and full enjoyment of this right is central to achieving individual freedom and to developing democracy. It is not only the cornerstone of democracy but indispensable to a thriving civil society”

“In circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by human rights treaties upon uninhibited expression is particularly high.”

“The government of Nigeria and the Cross-River state government of governor Ben Ayade have via the charges of terrorism and treason and denial of bail to Agba Jalingo, violated and continued to breach his human rights.”

“SERAP contends that Agba Jalingo is being unfairly prosecuted because of his reporting in his online news outlet, Cross River Watch, which alleged that the Cross Rivers State Governor diverted the sum of N500million, belonging to the Cross-River Micro Finance Bank.”

“On 22nd August 2019, the Nigeria Police, through its special anti-robbery squad arrested Agba Jalingo. On 23rd August 2019, Mr. Jalingo was transferred to a detention facility run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police in Calabar, the capital of Nigeria’s southern Cross River state and was held there for days before his arraignment on 31st August, 2019.”

SERAP is seeking the following reliefs:

1. A DECLARATION that the actions by the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade to continue to arbitrarily detain and unfairly prosecute Agba Jalingo using the Cybercrimes Act, sections 41 & 59 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act and sections 1 & 17 (2)(a)&(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention, Amendment) Act, violate his human rights, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

2. A DECLARATION that the arbitrary detention and unfair prosecution of Agba Jalingo by the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade is illegal and unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of Nigerian international obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression and information and media freedom, guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

3. AN ORDER directing the government of Nigeria and the Cross-River state government of governor Ben Ayade to immediately and unconditionally release Agba Jalingo and drop all charges against him, consistent with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

4. AN ORDER directing directing the government of Nigeria and the Cross-River state government of governor Ben Ayade and/or their agents to provide Agba Jalingo with effective remedies and reparation, including adequate compensation, restitution, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition

5. FOR SUCH FURTHER orders as the Honorable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this suit.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

I Think Agba Jalingo Should Be Released – Gov Ben Ayade

 

Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River has said he thinks the embattled journalist (Agba Jalingo) should be released from the prison. 

Speaking after a long silence on the matter, Governor Ayade said the journalist who is standing trial for treason and for allegedly criticising his government, acted out of youthful exuberance.

“I am of the opinion that Agba should be released because I think he was just youthfully excited.

“If you ask Agba Jalingo today, I am the one working with his lawyers for his freedom, I am the one sustaining him and sending upkeeps,” Ayade claimed.

The governor also denied being the one who ordered the journalist’s arrest, stating that the case is between Agba Jalingo and the Federal Government.

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“In court, it is Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State,” Mr Ayade told reporters on Monday at the presidential villa, Abuja, where he went to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.

“He’s in court for treason, a state does not have the power to try anyone for treason, it’s not me.”

Governor Ayade said the arrest and trial of Agba Jalingo are in connection with Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protest, adding that the journalist left his core profession and began to meddle into politics.

“On his Facebook page, he sent pictures where he was being teargassed at the revolution march in Lagos. His own pictures, posted by himself and when Sowore was being arrested, he went back to his Facebook to post that the revolution has just started, ‘we will continue this battle until revolution works’. He admitted this in Court.

“You are seeing him as a journalist, but he’s not, he’s the chairman of Sowore’s party in Cross River State so he’s a politician. He has a primary calling, which is journalism.

“Once he started the campaign to overthrow the government of President Buhari, he ceased to be seen from the point of a journalist because he has become the state chairman of a party,” Governor Ayade stated.

The governor reiterated that he has been working for Mr. Jalingo’s release from Calabar prison where he has been incarcerated.

Until his arrest, Mr. Jalingo was the publisher of Cross RiverWatch.

He was apprehended was on August 22 allegedly over a report suggesting that Governor Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state, a claim which the government has strongly refuted.

CROISEC Boss Denies He Was Pressured By PDP To Bar APC From Elections

The Chairman of the Cross River Independent State Electoral Commission (CROISEC), Patrick Otu, has denied allegations that he called APC chieftain, Obono Obla, to say that the PDP led state government was pressuring him to bar the APC from contesting.

Following protests by the All progressives Congress (APC) that the recently concluded local council election in Rivers State was ‘a sham’ and ‘mere charade’, Mr Otu has replied stating that people will always debate and argue about elections when they come.

“Merger of parties is a novelty in our political system and so no law contemplates the merger of parties” he said adding that CROISEC does not register parties.

Speaking about APC’s inability to contest in the elections, Otu stated that shortly after APC was registered, INEC “referred us to the electoral act, section 84(6), which states that a newly registered party shall only participate in elections after 90 days”.

CROISEC did not make the electoral act, he said, adding that “we cannot keep a party out of elections”.

On shifting the date of election, in order to allow the APC participate, the CROISEC boss said the commission can only shift elections “when there is an imminent breakdown of law and order”.

He also said only the State Assembly as well as the Chief Executive of the State can raise the issue of shifting elections. “That is what the law states,” he said.

Responding to allegations made by Agba Jalingo, who had observed the election process, Mr Otu denied calling APC chieftain, Obla, informing him of the pressure mounted on him by the PDP, to ensure that APC was unable to contest in the elections.

However, he admitted that the APC had applied for an extension of the election date, stating that “APC did not write to us to extend, referring to any law

Their letter was an appeal”.

He disclosed that NCP, PPA, APGA participated in the election.

C/River LG Polls: Observer Caught Police, CROISEC, PDP Members Thumb Printing

A public affairs analyst, Agba Jalingo, who monitored the local government elections in Cross River state on Friday said that there was no election in the state as the electoral process was ‘a PDP affair” adding that police officers, PDP officials and members of the Cross River Independent State Electoral Commission (CROISEC) were caught thumb printing on ballot papers.

Controversies have trailed the recently concluded the local government elections in Cross River state and Mr Jalingo further fueled the controversy with statements he made while speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

“Even though it was a one party election, PDP officials, the police including CROISEC officials – we caught them on video, thumb printing”

“They were thumb printing by themselves”.

Mr Jalingo, who said election did not hold in some parts of certain local governments, averred that people were unable to vote, due to violence and yet results were announced.

“There were few places in the mainland where people could not vote” he said.

At the Bakassi refugee camp, “there was uproar in the morning. The camp commander said they got some information that some politicians were going to come hire some people to go and do violence.

Ita Giwa came in the morning and move over a thousand of them to Day Spring Island where some of them actually voted.” Those who could not meet the voyage could not vote.

Mr Jalingo who was an observer at the elections said “it was a one party election”.

There are 18 local governments in cross river state and only the PDP featured candidates in the 18 local government chairmanship positions.

He said that State Independent Electoral Commissioner “is telling a lie”

The commissioner had said that almost all the other political parties pulled out of the race leading to PDP being the only party standing.

Mr. Jalingo faulted this assertion, adding that “if anybody said the parties pulled out, the person is telling a lie”.

According to him, there are 196 political wards in the state and “the PDP had all of them but seven”.

He disclosed that defunct parties such as ACN and PPA also had their logos on the ballot paper.

“APC, the new party that wanted to contest the election was disenfranchised by CROSIEC”. He continued by saying that the electoral body had called a press conference to say that APC does not qualify to contest because “the cross river local government elections electoral acts says that elections must be conducted 90 days before the expiration of the incumbent tenure and APC was registered later than 90 days”.

He also said that APC chieftain, Obono Obla had revealed that the CROSIEC boss had told him (Obla) via a telephone call that the PDP led state government was pressuring him to bar the APC from contesting.

The CROSIEC chairman, Patrick Otu, then told Obla that APC should write a letter demanding for an extension of time.

The letter was written, however, three days later CROISEC called the conference disqualifying APC from the election.

Mr Jalingo said Otuh, who is yet to confirm the allegation, has been unreachable.

Mr Jalingo stated that the said video is on crossriverwatch.com