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SERAP sues FG, Cross River over Jalingo’s prolonged detention, trial

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Lagos-Based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), at the weekend sued the federal and Cross River governments at ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja for the alleged “prolonged, arbitrary detention, unfair prosecution and sham trial of journalist Agba Jalingo.”

The publisher of CrossRiverWatch was arrested on August 22,2019 and charged for treason and terrorism over a report alleging that Governor Ben Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to Cross River State.

But in the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/10/2020, SERAP is seeking a declaration that the actions by the parties 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.”

The group also wants 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 are illegal and unlawful, as they amount 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.”

SERAP further wants 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.”

Additionally, the organisation urged the court for an “order 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.”

In the suit filed on SERAP’s behalf by its solicitor, Kolawole Oluwadare, it argued 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 a journalist.”

The rights body added: “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.”No date, has however, been fixed for hearing of the suit.

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