By Ushang Ewa
Amidst growing outcries for the release of the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online news portal and activist, Agba Jalingo, the Chief Executive Officer, Young Igbo Empowerment Foundation, Mr Bright Ezeocha has expressed fear that the detained journalist is being persecuted for his stance on corruption.
Ezeocha who is also the former President of the Igbo Youth Congress, (IYC) said the Cross River State Government will be held responsible if any evil befalls the journalist.
In a statement signed and issued on Friday evening, Ezeocha said Jalingo over the years had dedicated his online media platform to the pursuit of public good.
“We want him to be released without any delay and without any condition.This is a clear case of persecution.The world is outraged that a Nigerian can be put behind bars in a democracy for fighting the cause of the oppressed”Ezeocha said.
According to Ezeocha, the only known offence of Jalingo is his unrelenting zeal for good governance and transparency.
He said “Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch and rights activist was abducted by law enforcement agents in his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019. Since his, the Cross Rivers government has been keeping him like a war booty.”
Jalingo has remained in Police detention since then without arraignment while a suit to enforce his fundamental human rights suffers setbacks as his lawyers have accused the Police authorities of employing delay tactics.
He posited that Jalingo was clearly a prisoner of conscience as his questions have “made the powers that be especially in the Cross River State Government uncomfortable.”
He wondered why the Police will agree with Mr. Jalingo to honour an invitation slated for September 3, 2019 and turn around to allow themselves to be used by politicians to detain and harass those close to him.
“One will wonder how the Police invited someone over what should be a civil matter only to turn around and arrest him then throw terrorism charges against him claiming he wants to topple a State Government, is that not laughable?
“We expect that the Microfinance Bank and Governor Ben Ayade which Jalingo wrote about will answer the questions he raised or approach a Court to seek redress but harassing Jalingo this way and detaining him for almost a month without arraignment only shows that a script to intimidate, harass and shut dissenting voices and those of critics is at play.
“Comrade Agba Jalingo should be released unconditionally and an apology issued to him.
“It is troubling to know that he is being restrained and there is controlled access to him and it is ironic that an administration which signed the Administration of Criminal Justice Act into law at the State level in 2016 is breaking it!
“Also, to think that Jalingo is being meted inhuman treatment despite the theme of the State’s flagship tourism event, the Carnival Calabar for 2019 being ‘Humanity’; one can only wonder how far the elites in Cross River who currently hold sway will go to intimidate anyone who questions the pilfering of our common patrimony and the buffeting of our commonwealth A La Carte,” Ezeocha said.
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