The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership has condemned the arraignment of Mr Agba Jalingo, Publisher of online news medium, CrossRiver Watch, by the police, describing it as ‘far off the mark’.
Jalingo was arrested for publishing an article exposing how Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River approved and diverted N500m meant for Cross River State Microfinance Bank.
Executive Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, posited that the Nigerian Police erred by assisting Governor Ayade to undermine the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and publications of a citizen.
He also described his arrest and subsequent charge as ultra vires and dictatorial.
He said, “While we may not be privy to the extent Jalingo had gone through his ‘whistleblowing’ allegations against the governor as related to informing our anti-corruption agencies like the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who have the duty and wherewithal to investigate such allegations and take appropriate actions, now and later, we are convinced that the police arraignment of Jalingo in court for treason or acts bordering on terrorism, is ultra vires and far off the marks.
“Just as it was noted by many legal practitioners who have responded on this matter, the governor could not legally resort to ‘self-help’ by getting the journalist arrested and arraigned for criminal offences over a purely civil matter that borders, at worst on defamation of character.
“The best he could have sought was to sue the journalist for libel and consequently challenge him to prove his allegations in a court of law.
“The police erred by assisting a sitting governor to undermine the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and publications of a Nigerian citizen.”
Adeniran urged the police to withdraw such arbitrary charge against Jalingo and set him free immediately.