By Jonathan Ugbal
The Nigerian Government has written Citizen Agba Jalingo, a Nigerian journalist who was incarcerated for 179 days for alleged acts of treason and terrorism after an opinion article he published over his support for inmates in a prison facility in Nigeria’s southern port city of Calabar.
“I write in appreciation to acknowledge your contribution in the successful hosting of the 2020 End of the Year Inmates Sport Competition at the Medium Security Custodial Center, Calabar,” read a letter addressed to Mr. Jalingo and signed by that facility’s head, N. O. Obiako, A Deputy Controller of Corrections.
Mr. Obiako in his letter dated December 24, 2020 said the donation of items including trophies, medals, toiletries and jerseys, “built a joyous atmosphere in line with the celebration of the Christmas season” at it’s grand finale l a day earlier.
The games in the tourney included Football, Table tennis, 100 meters and 200 meters races.
Others were sack race, egg race and food competition with cash gifts raised for the top goal scorer, winners, runner ups and most valuable players in football.
Citizen Jalingo had spent over 140 of his entire 179 days of incarceration at the facility.
He was arrested on August 22, 2019 in Lagos over a July article wherein he demanded from his State Government, the whereabouts of the NGN500 million earmarked for the take-off the State’s owned microfinance bank.
He will then endure a 25 hour road trip in cuffs to Calabar and spent a total of 34 days in Police detention, before being arraigned on four charges bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, attempts to overthrow the Cross River State Government and conspiracy – all carrying life or death sentences. He was denied bail twice by Justice Simon Amobeda.
At the prisons, he informed the management of his decision to support the end of the year tournament which after agreeing initially, was cancelled by the Controller of Prisons, Jimmy Ndaekong Imaikop (now late) and his visitation rights denied for over 10 days.
Following a change in leadership, the request was granted to allow him support the tournament.
An elated Citizen Jalingo in a statement said his decision to support the tournament was due to the fact that he had experienced the trauma of staying “inside there,” and explained how his involvement led to the cancellation of last year’s edition.
“I was there last year by this time. I know how it feels inside there. Inside Life. When they stopped us from playing these games, it was very traumatic for everyone. And, it left me personally with a huge sense of guilt because it was my involvement and decision to sponsor the football competition that made Governor (Ben) Ayade pressurize the prison authorities to stop the games. So I felt that I was to blame. If I hadn’t gotten involved, the games would have gone on,” he wrote on Facebook.
Sen. Ayade was accused of using the instrumentality of State to oppress Citizen Jalingo, an allegation he denied.
However, Citizen Jalingo said next year’s edition will be “bigger and better, after all, it is a correction center not a punishment center,” adding that; “Gracias to everyone who supported this year’s event. You know yourself. I am talking to you. I am grateful. For very very obvious reasons, names and photographs of the participants and officials will not be made available to the public.”
Citizen Jalingo was admitted to bail by a senior Judge, Justice Sule Shuaib on February 13, 2020 and has not appeared in court again since then as his matter has not been listed for hearing.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.