The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has brought the government led by President Muhammadu Buhari and the government of Cross River Governor Ben Ayade to the ECOWAS Court in Abuja over the sham trial of journalist Agba Jalingo. “
Jalingo, editor of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 for a report alleging that Mr. Ayade had diverted N 500 million from the state.
In complaint number ECW / CCJ / APP / 10/2020, which was filed with the ECOWAS court last week, SERAP argued: “The only goal of the Government of Nigeria and the Cross River government of Governor Ben Ayade is to Agba for always to keep Jalingo in arbitrary detention and to silence him just because he expressed critical views and performed his legitimate job as a journalist. “
The lawsuit reads, “It is not the first time that the Government of Nigeria and Governor Ben Ayade’s Cross River government have taken measures to intimidate, harass and suppress journalists, including suppression of section 24 of Nigeria’s Cybercrime Law of 2015, which provides for the crime of cyberstalking.“
The lawsuit filed by her lawyer Kolawole Oluwadare on behalf of SERAP reads: “The government of Nigeria and the government of the State of Cross-River apply vague laws that give officials massive discretion to undermine human rights. They punish and silence Agba Jalingo and other journalists for their reporting, thereby undermining Nigerians’ right to information, public participation, and open and democratic governance in the country. “
The complaint was in part: “If freedom of expression and the media are to have real meaning in a democracy, these rights must necessarily include the freedom to criticize the government and its officials. In fact, the idea of democracy is that people are encouraged to express their criticism of elected government institutions, even the wrong ones, in the expectation that this process will improve the government process.
“The harassment, intimidation, unfair persecution and arbitrary detention of Agba Jalingo solely for the exercise of his human rights violates Nigeria’s international human rights commitments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which those Country is a contracting state.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and the full exercise of this right is central to realizing individual freedom and developing democracy. It is not only the cornerstone of democracy, it is indispensable for a thriving civil society.
“In times of public debates about public figures in the political arena and public institutions, the importance human rights treaties attach to uninhibited expression is particularly high.
“The Nigerian government and Governor Ben Ayade’s cross-river government have violated the allegations of terrorism and treason, and refused to bail Agba Jalingo, and continue to violate his human rights.
“SERAP claims that Agba Jalingo is wrongfully prosecuted for reporting in its online news agency Cross River Watch that the Cross Rivers governor is redirecting the N 500 million owned by the Cross-River Micro Finance Bank Has.
On August 22, 2019, the Nigerian police arrested Agba Jalingo through their special anti-robbery squad. On August 23, 2019, Mr Jalingo was taken to an anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police detention centre in Calabar, capital of the Southern Cross River state of Nigeria, and detained there for days before being charged on August 31, 2019. “
SERAP endeavoured to make the following easier:
- DECLARATION that Governor Ben Ayade’s measures and measures taken by Governor Ben Ayade to continue arbitrarily arresting and illegally prosecuting Agba Jalingo under the Cybercrimes Act, Sections 41 and 59 of the Nigerian Penal Code and Sections 1 and 2 17 (2) (a) & (b) of the Terrorism Act (prevention, amendment) violate its human rights, as guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
DECLARATION that the arbitrary detention and unfair persecution of Agba Jalingo by the Government of Nigeria and Governor Ben Ayade’s Cross River state government is illegal and unlawful because it violates Nigeria’s international obligations to respect, protect, to promote and protect represents the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information and media guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
A DECISION ordering Governor Ben Ayade’s Nigerian government and cross-river government to release Agba Jalingo immediately and unconditionally and to drop any charges against him that violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations under the International Pact civil and political rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
An ORDER to instruct the Government of Nigeria and the Government of the Governor of Cross-River, Ben Ayade, and/or their agents, to provide Agba Jalingo with effective remedies and reparations, including reasonable compensation, reimbursement, satisfaction, and guarantees for non-repetition, to provide
FOR FURTHER REASONS which the Court considers appropriate in the circumstances of this action.
No date was set for hearing the lawsuit.