The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the recent arrest of Nigerians by Nigeria Police Force as it accused the police of allowing the politicians to use it for oppressing and victimizing Nigerians.
MRA said this in reaction to the charge of terrorism against Agba Jalingo, Publisher of Cross River Watch, by the police for publishing an article against the Governor ben Ayade.
Jalingo, in the article, exposed how Ayade approved and diverted N500 million meant for Cross River Micro Finance Bank.
The police had arrested Jalingo in Lagos and moved him to Cross River where he has been in detention since August 22.
Condemning the police, MRA’s Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, said, “It is rather unfortunate that in the face of such massive and widespread insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria, rather than gear up to perform its primary duty of ensuring the security of the people, the police have chosen to make itself a willing tool of oppression in the hands of politicians against innocent citizens that it has failed to protect and who are victims of the bad governance of the same politicians.”
He added that detention of Jalingo on order of Ayade is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution as well as regional and international human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Longe noted that having held Jalingo without charge for over a week in violation of the constitution, the police decided to charge him with “acts of treason, treasonable felony and threatening through various publications on crossriverwatch.com and social media, using malicious publications, instigating the people of Nigeria to stage protest for the removal of the Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria from office without due process of law” under Section 41 of the Criminal Code Act.
He said: “These charges make a mockery of our legal system. They amount to a shameful and ridiculous trivialization of our criminal laws. They have the effect of undermining the integrity of the Nigeria Police Force and will ultimately result in robbing the State of the ability of using these legal provisions in deserving cases as both the State and the laws would have lost credibility in the eyes of the people.”
Longe argued that if anyone is on the wrong path at all, it is not Jalingo but Governor Ayade and the police in Cross Rivers State who are violating an injunction long established by the Court of Appeal in Nwankwo v. The State (1985) NCLR 247, where the Court held that any public officer who feels defamed by any publication should sue for libel, as it is illegal to use the machinery of the State to harass political opponents.
According to him, the mere fact that Ayade considers an expression of opinion insulting to him or even damaging to his reputation, cannot justify abusing his powers and misusing the police and criminal law for his personal aggrandizement.
Longe, therefore, called on the inspector-general of police to prevail on the commissioner of police in Cross River State to withdraw the unjustifiable criminal charges against Jalingo and ensure his immediate and unconditional release.