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Nigerian journalist charged with treason for criticizing Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State as N500 million naira vanishes

Agba Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch (a Cross River State-based newspaper) who has been in police detention for over a week following his arrest over a report on an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River Governor Ben Ayade, has been charged with treason.

The journalist was handed a four-count charge of treasonable felony, terrorism, cultism, and the disturbance of public peace by the police after being arrested in Lagos and driven by road to Calabar, the capital city of the Cross River State. 

In the charges filed before a Federal High Court in Calabar, Mr. Jalingo was accused of working with the convener of #RevolutionNow movement Omoyele Sowore, to destabilise the government and “undemocratically” force the government of Mr Ayade to end through violent means.

However Mr. Jalingo’s counsel, Monday Ubani described the charges as “contrived” while pointing out that his client should have been charged not more than 48 hours after his arrest in line with the law of the country. 

“We demand the unconditional release of Agba Jalingo from the unlawful custody of the police as it is obvious that the Governor and Police are not ready to arraign him yet for his alleged crime of treason. However, if they have a case against him, the best thing and option available to them is to charge him to court on Monday and allow the judiciary to decide his guilt or innocence.

“We must resist Nigeria being governed like a banana republic or like a dictatorship. Nigerians are awake” Ubani said. 

Premium Times reported that the journalist also sued the police over his arrest and detention, which he said were illegal and a breach of his fundamental human rights. Mr. Jalingo is also claiming N150 million as damages for the manner he was allegedly maltreated.

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