The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) today called for the release of renowned good governance activist and journalist, Agba Jalingo, who is being held in detention following his arrest on August 22 over an investigative media report by him querying the whereabouts of N500 million approved and released by Governor Ben Ayade’s Cross River State government for the floating of Microfinance bank for the State.
Agba Jalingo came into the black books of Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade for publishing an article, in which he queried the whereabouts of the N500 million.
National Public Relations Officer of the association, Mr Adeyemi Azeez, made this known in a statement released today in Abuja.
“On Friday, October 4, the journalist and rights activist, Agba Jalingo, filed a bail application but was refused by a Federal High Court.
“Although the court has autonomous powers on cases before it, this development further increased the widespread rumours that state powers are behind his travail.
“In fact, the mode of his arrest was shocking as his wife confirmed that the men who took her husband away from their residence in Lagos were not wearing police uniforms.
“Also, they did not show her the warrant of arrest,” he said.
According to him, it was later discovered that the journalist was arrested by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team of the Nigerian Police Force on Aug 22.
Azeez said that Jalingo was moved to Calabar and arraigned before a Federal High Court on September 25.\
He said that the journalist was arraigned on four charges bordering on acts of treason, treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross River State Government.
Azeez said that it was inhuman for the activist to be kept in incarceration since September 25, as the ruling of the court was being awaited.
“The activist has been kept in custody for over 119 days even when his case is yet to be ruled upon by a competent court,” he said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NANS expressed concern that the continuing detention of the activist was undermining the nation’s hard-earned democracy.
Before now, Nigeria’s leading civil society group, Social Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked Governor Ayade to release Jalingo without delay.
SERAP described the continuing incarceration of Jalingo as persecution and that it is “unacceptable for Cross River State government to use the criminal justice system to persecute the journalist”.
“We’ll see you in court soon if he’s not released”, SERAP warned.
The campaign for Agba Jalingo’s release recently gained traction following the recent release of the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, from detention.
Mr Jalingo is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper. Advocates of his freedom are now mounting pressure on Governor Ayade to ensure his release from detention and stop his persecution. Social media is awash with calls from activists who are equally calling out Ayade’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – Nigeria’s leading opposition party – for hypocrisy of conveniently drawing attention to Sowore’s detention by the All Progressive Congress-led Federal Government whilst ignoring the plight of Jalingo.
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