A journalist and activist, Mr. Agba Jalingo, has been charged with terrorism for criticising the Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade.
However, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has advised Ayade to sue Jalingo for libel, instead of “using machinery of the State to harass political opponents.”
Jalingo was arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court, Calabar Judicial Division, on four counts bordering on “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 and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 41 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
Count Two of the suit states: “That you, Agba Jalingo, ‘M’ on or about the 2ndof July 2019, at about 10am at No. 2, Marian Road, Calabar, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did make and publish false statement on crossriverwatch.com and facebook.com/story titled: “How Ayade approved and diverted N500m for Cross River Micro Finance” in order to cause alarm, hatred and disturb public peace in Calabar, for the purpose of bringing down the reputation of the Executive Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Senator Professor Ben Ayade, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 59 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Count Three states, “That you, Agba Jalingo, ‘M’ (an associate of Mr.Omoyele Sowore) on or about the 2nd day of July … did conspire with Prince Ekanem Ekpo, ‘M’ and others now at large to commit unlawful acts, to wit, terrorism and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention Amendment) Act, 2013.
The fourth count added that Jalingo, “an associate of Mr. Omoyele Sowore,” “did hold meeting with leaders of cult groups across Cross River State, instigate them to commence acts of terrorism on the person of His Excellency, Senator Professor Ben Ayade … to undemocratically force his government to an end through various acts of violence and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 1(2) (a) (b) of the Terrorism (Prevention Amendment) Act, 2013.”
The affidavit was dated Friday, August 30, 2019.
In his reaction, however, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, stated that a Nigerian citizen cannot be charged with any criminal offence for criticising a governor or any other public officer in Nigeria.
Falana, who is also the National Chairman, Peoples’ Alternative Front, argues that, “In Nwankwo V State (1985) NCLR 247, the Court of Appeal 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 in Nigeria.”
Continuing, he said, “In fact, the court (in Nwankwo V State ) advised Nigerians to resist any official move to wipe out the freedom of expression fought for and won from the colonial regime.”
Decrying the charges preferred against Jalingo, Falana said, “in utter disregard of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the Nwankwo’s case, the Nigeria Police Force has just charged Mr. Agba Jalingo with terrorism for criticising Gov Ayade of Cross River State.”
Advocating the discontinuation of the case, Falana stated, “Since the charge constitutes a gross abuse of judicial process, we call on the Inspector-General of Police to discontinue, to withdraw it without any delay.”
He then advised, “If Gov Ayade feels offended by any statement made by Mr. Jalingo, he is advised to sue for libel in the High Court of Cross River State.”