A Federal High Court in Calabar has dismissed the terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime charges against an online newspaper publisher, Agba Jalingo.
Reprieve for the publisher of CrossRiverWatch came over two-and-a-half years after he was arrested in August 2019.
In Calabar on Monday, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu followed the cue of the Cross River State Government, which withdrew the charges against Jalingo.
Jalingo had accused was the state Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade of diverting N500 million belonging to the state.
Upon being arrested, he was charged for terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime, and incarcerated, in the first instance, for about 179 days, despite global outrage against the government’s action.
Jalingo’s lawyer, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, commended Cross River State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General for withdrawing the charges against his client.
‘We are happy that our harassment has ended’, he said. The senior advocate was accompanied by two other lawyers, First Baba Isa and Kehole Enya.
Despite the global campaign to free Jalingo, it appears that a political solution was the solution eventually. Amnesty International in Nigeria declared the journalist a “prisoner of conscience” and accused the Nigerian government of manipulating the nation’s justice system against him.
‘While Agba Jalingo is detained for his critical opinions, both Cross River and Federal Governments are collaborating, through the manipulation of the criminal justice system to keep him behind bars,” the Amnesty spokesperson, Sanusi Isa told reports in Calabar about two years ago.
He alleged that Jalingo’s trial fell short of international standards of fairness, ‘especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret’.
‘The flawed charges and sham trial of Agba Jalingo have exposed the inadequacies and manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for human rights and the rule of law’, he added.
Jalingo told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday that he always knew that the court would rule in his favour in the case.
‘I knew from day one that I did not commit the offence. I knew it was just a matter of time for the court to throw the matter away’, he said.
‘It’s just painful that our system is skewed in this manner where three years of my time has been wasted coming from Lagos to Calabar because of a sham trial’, he further said.
Jalingo said he was waiting for advice from his lawyers, whether to sue the government or not, even though he had told his wife he was leaving vengeance to God.
He said he was arrested in Lagos and taken to Calabar like a cow, and that the intention of those who locked him up was to break him.
He also said there was pressure on him, while under incarceration, to write an apology letter to the Cross River State government, which he declined.
‘Their intention was to scare me, push me until I break. So, the lesson I have learnt is that it is better to hold on. Even when at the breaking point, take a deep breath, pray to God, believe in God and ask him to give you strength.
‘I think today, the person that will really feel bad is the Governor of Cross River State and those who locked me up. Wherever they are now, I think their conscience is talking to them’, he said.
Source: PREMIUM TIMES