Group berates Ayade over journalist’s detention
A media rights group, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), yesterday accused Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State of abuse of power over the unlawful detention of Mr. Agba Jalingo, a journalist with Cross River Watch.It described the charges of treason against the journalist as a “shameful and ridiculous trivialisation of our criminal laws.”
The group stated that Jalingo’s detention for over a week for simply writing a story that displeased Ayade was a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution as well as regional and international human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Jalingo was charged after a week of being detained with ‘acts of treason, treasonable felony, and threatening through various publications and the social media, using malicious publications, instigating the people of Nigeria to stage protest for the removal of Governor of Cross River State from office without due process of law” under Section 41 of the Criminal Code Act.
MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said: “It is rather unfortunate that in the face of such massive and widespread insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria, rather than gear up to perform its primary duty of ensuring the security of the people, the police have chosen to make themselves a willing tool of oppression in the hands of politicians against innocent citizens that they have failed to protect and who are victims of bad governance of the same politicians.
“The charges against the journalist make a mockery of our legal system. They amount to a shameful and ridiculous trivialisation of our criminal laws. They have the effect of undermining the integrity of the Nigerian police and will ultimately result in robbing the state of the ability of using these legal provisions in deserving cases as both the state and the laws would have lost credibility in the eyes of the people.”
Longe said that Jalingo had done nothing wrong but the Governor Ayade and the Nigerian Police in Cross River State who violated an injunction long established by the Court of Appeal in Nwankwo v The State (1985) NCLR 247, where the court held that any public officer who feels defamed by any publication should sue for libel, as it is illegal to use the machinery of the state to harass political opponents.
He, therefore, urged Ayade, as a public figure, to learn to withstand criticisms, and also called on the Inspector-General of Police to prevail on the Commissioner of Police in Cross River State to withdraw the unjustifiable criminal charges against Jalingo and ensure his immediate and unconditional release.
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