Cross River State CID, Ayade’s Government And The Threat To Civic Space Engagement BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, Civic Space, Opinion, Politics

Early into Ayade’s Government, it was the EFCC they began with. In 2015, agents of Ayade administration made all kinds of wild allegations against former Director of the Cross River State Internal Revenue Service, Dr. Peter Oti. Operatives were sent from the then zonal office of the EFCC in Port Harcourt to bundle Oti from his house in Calabar and drove him to Rivers State only for him to be detained for days and later released without any charges or apology. But it appeared this strategy was expensive for the new power brokers and they decided to change style. They turned to the Cross River State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID.

In July 2016, for persistently criticizing and disagreeing with those of us who were promoting the Cross River State Superhighway, a criminal petition was written by elements in Ayade’s Government to the Cross River State CID, against environmental activist, Odiga Odiga. He was arrested, locked up for days by the SCID in Calabar and later released without charges, after all the humiliation.

Immediately that worked for them, the Governor himself moved in and started harassing Venatius Ikem, with multiple petitions to the same Cross River State CID, who severally haunted Vena all over the place until he was temporary chased out of the State because he was in a different political camp with the Governor and was constantly criticizing the Governor.

On Thursday, 19th of October, 2017, following another frivolous petition from the former Attorney General of the State, Joe Oshie Abang, the Cross River State CID, sent men to abduct Government critic, Ifere Paul from Abuja, chained his legs and hands like a hardened criminal, pressed him against the hard cold floor of a vehicle, drove fast and furious all night from Abuja to Calabar, arrived by 3:00am and pushed him into a dingy cell. He was later charged for writing things on Facebook against Governor Ayade. He was discharged and acquitted by the court.

In August 2019, Prince Ekanem, a former aide of Governor Ayade, in a circulated flyer, called for a protest against Ayade over sundry issues. Government agents petitioned him to the same Cross River State CID for threat to life and operatives arrested him and kept him at the Anti-kidnapping and Anti-Cultism unit in Calabar for 14 days; until he was forced to write a letter of apology to the Governor. He was released after writing an undertaking that he won’t criticize the Governor again.

August 22, 2019 following a petition of defamation against Cross River Micro Finance Bank, by agents of the Ayade administration to the same Cross River State CID, Citizen Agba Jalingo, was abducted from his Lagos home by operatives and driven to Calabar and detained in handcuffs for 34 days without charges. He was later arraigned in court for Treason, Terrorism, Cultism and attempt to overthrow Ayade and Buhari. He is still on trial.

September 2019, another critic of Governor Ayade, Joseph Odok, was arrested by the Police after a petition was also written to the same Cross River State CID by agents of Ayade’s Government. Dr. Odok, who is also a lawyer, was arrested from his Abuja home and driven to Calabar and also kept at the Anti-kidnapping and Anti-Cultism unit for weeks. He was also charged for terrorism and he is still on trial.

In February 2021, Odey Christian Upan, a domestic aide to Governor Ayade who has been allocated a choice plot of land in the annexed Cross River Water Board Land in Calabar, had an issue with a businessman he hired to fix bullet proof doors in his new mansion he has built on the freeland he got. The 22Million Naira bullet proof doors deal didn’t go down well, and Upan who must have copied very quickly from his seniors, wrote a petition to the same Cross River State CID alleging all kinds of criminal things against a businessman man he refused to pay all his money. Operatives were dispatched from Calabar to Port Harcourt to arrest Akamsco the businessman. He was locked up at the SCID in Calabar and later released without charges, following the intervention of Basic Rights Council. The last time Upan was in the news, was when he organized and beat up Inyali Peter, a journalist, in Obudu for criticizing Governor Ayade.

April 2021, Michael Emaluji, went to an open park in Port Harcourt to play paintball game. A well known game that involves toy guns and play jackets. Weeks later, the State Director of Due Process and Price Intelligence in Ayade’s Government, Alphonsus Eba, petitions him for illegal possession of fire arm, threat to life and defamation of character. State CID operatives are dispatched from Calabar to Abuja to force their way into the estate where Emaluji lives in a bid to arrest and take him to Calabar. Why? Because Michael Emaluji is politically opposed to Alphonsus Eba.

Thankfully, the new Commissioner of Police in Cross River State, Sikiru Akande, promptly resolved the last case between Eba and Emaluji, while I understand they are writing more petitions against more perceived foes. While resolving the matter last Wednesday in the presence of several persons who were in his office in solidarity, the CP said something that was instructive.

He said: “My biggest problem since I returned to this Command is the State CID. If I want to catch thief now now now, if the State CID hear, the thief will escape.”

I cannot agree less with CP Akande. A criminal investigation department that is busy hunting down and shutting the Civic Space and preventing citizens from fully participating in the things that concern their lives cannot protect intelligence. The notoriety of the SCID and their yielding to political machinations in Cross River has become particularly worrisome under this Government and those officers who have made themselves available for these hatchet jobs should now be brought to book as a deterrence.

The consistent attempt to shrink the Civic Space in Cross River by agents of Government has been aided and abated by the SCID in no small measure and this calls for action by the various stakeholders to ensure that we push back this assault on citizens rights. The point must be made clear to those involved, both in the Police and in Government, that going forward, while we pledge to support the effort of the Police in fighting crime, we will collectively resist attempts by politicians, Government appointees and their agents and whosoever be it, that may want to use the police to close the Civic Space in our State. It took decades of struggles and people’s blood to open up this little space we are struggling to enlarge. No one must be allowed to shut an inch. Eternal vigilance should be our song.

Yours sincerely,

Citizen Agba Jalingo is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch and writes from Lagos State.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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