By Evans Ufeli Esq

The Nigerian Police Force arrested Agba Jalingo on the 22 of August 2019 in connection to a story he published on the 17 th of July 2019 at the CrossRiver Watch news platform, titled How Ayade Approved and Diverted N500 Million For Cross River Micro Finance Bank. Jalingo is a journalist, right activist and the publisher Cross River Watch – an online syndicated news platform with huge followership and topnotch professionals. Following the publication the Jalingo received an Invitation Letter from the police titled, “Investigation Activities: Re: Conspiracy to Cause Unrest and Conduct Likely to Breach Public Peace dated the 14th day of August 2019.

Jalingo was asked by the police in Cross River State in the aforementioned letter to report to their station on the 19th of August 2019. Jalingo responded to the letter from the police adding that he wasn’t in Cross River State at the time but he will be available at the police station on the 26th of August 2019. The police in a Gestapo operation stormed Jalingo’s house in Lagos on the 22nd of August 2019. He was deviously abducted by the men of the Nigerian police and taken by road on a ten hours journey to Cross River State. Since then the police have not charge him to court rather they have kept him indiscriminately in detention where his health is deteriorating. The police must be cautioned to note that our laws have not changed. That police brutality and the gross violation of citizen’s right is not a part of our laws. The Nigerian must also take a good observation of the damages it has caused the masses its quest to silence the citizens.

The law is that upon arrest for whatsoever reason the police is expected to grant bail to the suspect or charge him to court within 24 hours or at most 48 hours. Where the police wishes to detain a suspect for more than the above constitutionally required time it must get a court order to that effect. The police in dereliction of their duty arrested Jalingo and since then they have commit him to detention and continued to violate his right as guarantee under section 35 of the 1999 constitution as amended. He has not been charged to court, the police have equally refused to grant him bail contrary to the provisions of law. This criminal lawlessness of the Nigerian police is a hug threat to our democracy and we must collectively fight against it in the interest of our nation.

As a journalist, it’s Jalingo ‘s constitutional duty to hold government accountable to the people as provided for under section 22 of the 1999 constitution as amended which states as follows,“the press, radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. ” The role of a journalist or the media therefore as the fourth estate of the realm is a constitutional obligation which set the tone for a robust democratic dispensation. It’s therefore an offense for an individual or the government to works against the media, to stifle its operation and sacred objective.

The law equally has made provisions and safeguards to curb the abuse of this constitutional objective. Where a story turns out to be false or published in bad faith, the aggrieved party can bring an action for defamation in a court of law to seek redress. There are also regulatory bodies and pressure groups across Nigeria that regulates the conduct of media professional to ensure that the ethics and professional conduct of the profession is held in good light. It’s not for anyone to engage the police in a perceived civil infraction when the law already has made provision and remedies to protect an aggrieved party in situations like this.

The Governor of Cross River State – Mr Ben Ayade ought to have known that employing the police to intimidate a journalist is bad strategy. The matter in question is a civil case and it requires no police intervention. The Governors and the police are still struggling with how to come up with an offense in respect of this case and that is because you cannot reverse a civil infraction into a criminal case. You cannot repress the voice of reason and caution in a democracy. The reign of terror is over! The Governor of Cross River State Mr. Ben Ayade is hereby charged with immediate effect to order the police to release Jalingo in his own interest or face the wrath of the masses and posterity.

The spurious claims made by the police that Jalingo’s arrest is also partly linked the the Sowore’s #RevolutionNow is unfounded and laughable. This is what happens when you arrest people thoughtlessly. It put you in serious trouble because your action abinitio was orchestrated under huge deposited of ignorance and a crass unseating contempt of arrogance. Nigeria is gradually falling apart under its own contradictions and the police stand in the center of this ruin. If this country keeps Sowore and Jalingo any much further than this, history will keep this scarlet in our sleeves and show this to us forever. Government must respect human right, there is no nation, faith or creed that is greater than being human.

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