Agba Jalingo: Group Demands Visa Ban for Ayade, Malami

Agba Jalingo: Group Demands Visa Ban for Ayade, Malami

…Say It Can Contribute to Reversing Climate of Fear, Repression in Cross River …As NBA Chieftain Tackles Governor Over Claims A coalition of civil society groups have petitioned the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Mary Beth Leonard, urging her to immediately enforce a visa ban on Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, Nigeria’s

…Say It Can Contribute to Reversing Climate of Fear, Repression in Cross River

…As NBA Chieftain Tackles Governor Over Claims

A coalition of civil society groups have petitioned the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Mary Beth Leonard, urging her to immediately enforce a visa ban on Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), and other public officials culpable in the unlawful detention and persecution of a Journalist and Human Rights Advocate, Mr Agba Jalingo.

Jalingo, publisher of an online newspaper, Cross RiverWatch, was arrested on August 22, 2019 over a report suggesting that Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state, a claim which the government has denied.

While stressing that Mr Jalingo was being unjustly detained for asking genuine questions about the state’s finances, the group said that a visa ban can contribute to reversing the current terrible climate of fear and repression that Cross River State was turning into and curb the tyrannical tendencies of Governor Benedict Ayade and his allies.

The petition reads, “We write to request your consideration of a visa ban on the Governor of Cross River State, Benedict Ayade, and his immediate associates, as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for gross human rights violations and media repression especially as related to the continued arbitrary detention and prosecution on trumped up charges of journalist and human rights advocate, Agba Jalingo.

“Mr. Jalingo is being prosecuted for publishing a report exposing how Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State approved and immediately diverted N500million meant for Cross    River State Microfinance Bank. Police bundled Jalingo in Lagos on August 22, 2019 and travelled with him by road to Calabar despite protestations about his ill health. He was kept in a dingy and crowded Police Cell under the directives of Ben Ayade with no formal charges for over one month.              

Jalingo was eventually arraigned before a Federal High Court on September 25, 2019, on a four-count charge of treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross River State Government.

These charges are not only unfounded and frivolous; they are also meant to secure a capital punishment status thereby denying the journalist bail.      

“Agba Jalingo has since pleaded not guilty to the four charges but has continued to be denied bail for flimsy reasons, despite his failing health. He is routinely brought to court and taken away in handcuffs, even though there is nothing to indicate that Mr. Jalingo has been violent or has attempted to escape since his arrest – clearly a deliberate ploy to humiliate, denigrate,  and psychologically batter him into recanting his journalistic and advocacy work. This is in contravention of the Administration of Criminal Justice  Act (ACJA) 2015.

“Most recently, following Jalingo’s request to the Chief Judge for the matter to be reassigned relying on a leaked audio where Justice Amobeda was caught on tape saying the journalist would be treated like Ken Saro-Wiwa (the late Niger Delta environmentalist who was murdered by Nigeria’s military junta also for speaking up against bad governance), the judge recused himself from the case but refused to pass on the file to a new judge. This is obviously a design to frustrate the case and keep the activist in prison longer than necessary.

“His continued detention grossly violates his human rights and is an affront to press freedom and investigative journalism in Nigeria. It constitutes a violation of Jalingo’s rights to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  (ICCPR) and the Banjul Charter, his right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter, and his rights as a human rights defender as outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou  Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa. Since Nigeria is a signatory to these treaties, Jalingo’s ongoing detention constitutes a direct violation of international law.

“It is important to note that the repression of activists and journalists is becoming a pattern in Nigeria’s Cross River state. Another activist, Joseph  Odok, is also standing trial for speaking up for good governance. The onslaught against the media and human rights defenders in the state is fast growing into a worrisome pattern, resulting in a climate of repression in the state and pushing many hitherto vocal citizens into hiding.  It is now close to 5 months since Mr. Jalingo was arrested and denied his freedom, yet his trial has not begun, an indication that the authorities are bent on making him serve a prison sentence without due process or the sentence of a court.  

“Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, foreign government officials, and their immediate family members, who are responsible for severe violations of human rights, are inadmissible for entry into the United States. Your immediate intervention through a visa ban can contribute to reversing the current terrible climate of fear and repression in Cross River State.

“It is upon the foregoing that we the undersigned organizations seek a visa ban against  the Cross River State Governor, his close associates and the Attorney General of the Federation.”

The groups that signed the petition include We the People, Take it Back Movement, Citizens Enlightenment and Accountability Programme, Association of Cross River Online Journalists, Faculty of Peace Organization, Rivers State Civil Society Organizations, Coalition for Revolution (CORE) and Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neo-Liberal Attacks.

In a related development, a former Vice President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Monday Ubani has faulted Governor Ayade’s claims over the continued detention of Mr Jalingo who’s being tried for treason.

Ayade had on Monday denied having any hands in Jalingo’s arrest, saying that he is also making efforts to ensure his (Jalingo) release.

“If you ask Agba Jalingo today, I am the one working with his lawyers for his freedom, I am the one sustaining him and sending upkeeps.

He added: “You are seeing him as a journalist, but he’s not, he’s the chairman of Sowore’s party in Cross River State so he’s a politician.

“He’s in court for treason, a state does not have the power to try anyone for treason, it’s not me.”

Pointing out the flaws in Ayade’s statement, Ubani in an opinion piece, asked the Governor some pertinent questions, part of which reads: “So the Federal offence of treasonable felony against President Buhari is being handled by the CP of Cross River State at the instructions of who in Cross River State?

“Such federal offence against President Buhari who sits in Abuja is being handled in Cross River State by the Police Authority in Cross River upon what criminal jurisprudence? Going by your account, Agba Jalingo was tear-gassed during #RevolutionNow protest at Cross River State or was it not in Lagos?

“One of the charges both old and amended against Agba Jalingo is his alleged attempt to overthrow your government, please where was President Buhari mentioned in the old charge against Agba Jalingo? So to rope in the President, the Police amended the charge to bring in the Presidency that was never a charge in the old? Just hoping that the Presidency will disown this reprehensible allegation that has no basis in fact and law.

“You allege sustaining Agba Jalingo financially while he is detained, the members of the public including my humble self will like to know who you are giving the said money to, to Agba directly or to Jonathan of Cross River Watch who I know to be the one catering for Agba Jalingo while he is being detained? If you have given any money as alleged, please could you make public the alleged amount you have spent so far for Agba Jalingo’s upkeep?

“You alleged to be working with Agba Jalingo’s legal team to have him released from the illegal detention he has been subjected to. May I ask, which of the lawyers are you working with for this ‘altruistic gesture’ to have Agba released from detention?”

The former NBA vice president called on the Governor to “remove the ‘hand of monkey’ from soup before it turns out to be the hand of a human being and ensure the release of Jalingo forthwith from illegal detention.”


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