By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The management of online newspaper CrossRiverWatch says it is contemplating a Court action against the Nigerian Correctional Service after the Cross River State command stopped all visitation to it’s publisher, Agba Jalingo who is remanded at the medium security custodial center in Calabar.
The News Editor, Mr. Jonathan Ugbal made this known in a statement issued Sunday in Calabar where he queried the rationale behind the action of the Correctional Service.
Mr. Ugbal said the service has been playing games with the life of Mr. Jalingo who risks death penalty or life imprisonment as he faces trial for alleged acts of terrorism, treasonable felony, conspiracy and attempts to topple the Cross River State Government after publishing an article demanding the State Government comes clean on the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance Bank in July 2019.
“The life of Mr. Agba Jalingo is currently threatened as the Nigerian Correctional Service in whose custody he is in, is carrying out certain activities that suggests they may have been compromised.
“The first of the series of strange directives and activities began on Monday, November 11, 2019 when it put on hold, a competition in honor of Mr. Jalingo claiming it was a public holiday. The opening game was shifted to Tuesday, November 12th but he was due in Court.
“Again, it was shifted till Wednesday, November 13th which we accepted as the jerseys, trophy, medals and footballs purchased were already in their hands.
“However, the State controller of the Nigerian Correctional Service on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 stormed the custodial center and seized these sports kits.
“Visitation to him was also banned. But, eventually, only his elder sister was allowed visitation. After two days, despite having approved self feeding, the service said two other female visitors will be allowed to bring him food.
“This continued for days until on Friday, November 22, 2019 when again, the service stopped all visitation to him with the excuse that the application for visitation has not been approved.
“These calls for worry. It is unknown to us any law that says an inmate in awaiting trial will have to apply for visitation. As per the Nigerian Correctional Service act 2019, visitation is a right even to convicts. Why then does the service whose objective is to correct convicts turns itself into a punitive agency?
“We are also aware that cell mates of Mr. Jalingo are currently being tortured to force confessional statements from them in order to indict him.
“It is unfortunate that a service which has pleaded cooperation from us to aid discharge it’s duties is reneging on it’s own propositions. It is also laughable that they lied against him in their hastily written statement which probably was to impress some bigwig.
“We are currently reviewing the situation with our legal team and may sue them for infringing on his rights,” the statement read.
The service had on November 13th issued a statement claiming that Mr. Jalingo had denied knowledge of the competition in his honor.
The State Controller, Mr. Imaikop Ndaekong in that statement asked the public to disregard any reportage that a competition of such held.
However, a lawyer in the defense team of Mr. Jalingo, James Ibor said that visitation of inmates was a right guaranteed in the constitution.
“The service does not have any power to stop the visitation to any inmates. Jalingo is on awaiting trial, why will they be the ones to determine the gender that visits him? What if he does not have a female colleague, family member of friend resident here? That is ultra vires of the law.
“Even convicts have rights that must be obeyed. The service should do the right thing and allow Jalingo enjoy the rights guaranteed in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Ibor said.
Jalingo, whom alongside journalist and pro democracy activists, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International was invited by the Police in August to answer for his article which was published in July.
The interview was first slated for August 19, 2019. It was later rescheduled for August 26th and September 3, 2019. Mr. Jalingo went public with his decision to honor the invitation.
However, he was arrested in a gestapo styled operation by Police officers in his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019. He was then driven by road to Calabar, the Cross River capital where he arrived on August 24, 2019.
He was detained for 32 more days at a police black site facility with limited access to him until his arraignment on September 25, 2019 for the hearing of his bail.
The trial has suffered so many setbacks with the Court presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda refusing to admit Mr. Jalingo to bail on two occasions; October 4th and October 30th.
An October 23rd ruling by Justice Amobeda drew the ire of the public as he ordered that the witnesses listed by the prosecution be masked and made to testify in an enclosed screen.
An application to vary that order by the defense was also dismissed by the Justice Amobeda in early November forcing the defense to apply for a verbatim recording of the arguments independent of the Judge.
The trial is billed to continue on Wednesday, November 27th at the Federal High Court in Calabar with heavy security presence expected like in the past three court dates.
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