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Rights group writes NHRC, U.S. over detention of journalists in Cross River

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A political pressure group, Concerned Nigerians, has urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the United States (U.S.) to commence an investigation into the growing clampdown on press freedom and freedom of expression in Cross River State.

The group also urged the U.S. government to place a visa ban on Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State over the continued detention and prosecution of a journalist, Agba Jalingo.

A human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju, in the petition filed on behalf of the group, dated October 28, 2019, and addressed to the Executive Secretary of the NHRC and the U.S. Ambassador, a copy obtained by The Guardian, said: “We are a civil society organisation that prioritises human rights and good governance in Nigeria. We have consistently taken a stance against the violation of the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of Nigerians by unscrupulous individuals and public institutions.

“It is an unambiguous fact that the National Human Rights Commission, by virtue of the National Human Rights Act of 1995 (as amended in 2010), is saddled with the responsibility of promoting and protecting all human rights in Nigeria.”

He appealed to the commission to join Nigerians in resisting and ending the persecution of Agba Jalingo and Joseph Odok by the Cross River State government of Governor Ben Ayade.

“Jalingo is a renowned Cross River State journalist and activist who was unjustly arrested for criticising Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and had since been in detention for the same.

According to a popular online medium in Nigeria, Agba Jalingo was arraigned on Friday, August 30, 2019, at the Federal High Court, Calabar Judicial Division, on four counts bordering on “acts of treason, treasonable felony and threatening through various publications on crossriverwatch.com and social media, using malicious publications, instigating the people of Nigeria to stage protest for the removal of the Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria from office without due process of law and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 41 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“Another activist cum blogger named Joseph Odok has been arrested and detained arbitrarily since September 26, 2019, on the order of the Cross River State government and has now been charged with terrorism for publishing a post on Facebook,” the petition read.

Adeyanju said that acts of impunity and repression as highlighted above were unfit for any democratic society, adding: “And allowing this trend of despotism to continue without consequences will only aggravate the worsening human rights conditions in the country.

He, therefore, urged the commission to beam its searchlight into human rights violations going in Cross River State and ensure that the victims of state persecution are not made to suffer further for exercising their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press as guaranteed by Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution.


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