The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the federal government and Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State before ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja over the illegal detention of journalist Agba Jalingo.
Concise News reports that Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state.
In the suit filed last week at the ECOWAS Court, by its solicitor Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP condemned the prolonged, unfair prosecution, persecution, and sham trial of the journalist.
The suit reads: “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.”
“If the 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 2020, the Nigeria Police, through its special anti-robbery squad arrested Agba Jalingo. On 23rd August 2020, 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, 2020.”
. SERAP Sues FG, Cross River Govt Over Trial Of Agba Jalingo Follow Concise News.