Just last week, we were publicly decrying the decision of the federal government to forcefully arrest AAC presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore for ‘daring’ to organize a nationwide protest to demand well needed revolution under his #RevolutionNow platform. We did so because it reminded us of the tactics of the dictatorships of the Nigerian military regimes. That was followed by the arrest of journalist Dadiyata, who remains in government custody without bail or a proper charge. Both actions clearly flout the Nigerian constitution and increase the distrust of the populace against this government.
But it seems the actions of the Federal government has emboldened state governors to start to take actions into their own hands and attack journalist who ‘dare’ to question their actions. Jounalist, Agba Jalingo just became the first Nigerian journalist to be charge with treason by a Nigerian governor (the constitution makes no provision for a member of the executive to charge anyone with treason, those kind of pronouncements come from the judiciary.
What is Jalingo’s crime?
He is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, a paper that operates out and covers beat stories that primarily happen in Rivers state. Jalingo through his platform had reported that N500 million naira had been diverted from the Cross River state treasury, and suggested his investigations suggested the governor was involved. The government owned microfinance bank that was mentioned in his report made the complaints that the River’s state police used as justification for his arrest.
Jalingo’s arrest was perpetrated in Lagos and he was extradited to Calabar where he was smart enough to ask his lawyers to petition the Cross River state judicial system to invalidate his arrest and for the state to pay him damages for invalidating his human rights. The Nigerian police on the other hand intend to charge him with treasonable felony, cultism, terrorism and the disturbance of public peace, all charges that were also used against the #Egbeda57 who until today are yet to be charged with a proper crime, a full year after they were also arrested.
The explanation of the charges are ridiculous at best, and if the Federal High Court in Calabar does its job, the case will be thrown out and damages paid. But very little goes right in this present dispensation. We hope that Jalingo will be free soon to continue to advocate for transparency and justice.