By Monday Ubani
Recall that I raised alarm last week about the unlawful arrest of Agba Jalingo the Publisher of Cross River Watch by the Commissioner of Police in Cross River over his publication about the State Government’s alleged fraudulent handling of a Micro Finance Bank that was purportedly established for the state by the State Government.
The Police had given a WRITTEN INVITATION to Agba for 26th of August, 2019 but surprisingly on the 24th of August, 2019 the same police came to “abduct” Agba Jalingo and embarked on an excruciating road journey to Calabar that took them two days to arrive at their destination.
Since 24th of August, 2019 till date, Agba Jalingo has remained in the custody of the State Police Command with a restricted access without any charge against him before any competent court of jurisdiction. Rather than charge him formally before any court since he was purportedly arrested for committing an offence, the police in Calabar has been toying with several ideas of levelling allegations of criminal defamation, gun running, treasonable felony, attempt to overthrow the State Government, cultism and operating illegal organisation amongst others.
They have refused to be specific as to what offence they are prepared to charge him for. Having failed to charge him within the 48 hours maximum time permitted by the constitution, they are seeking or have obtained a court order extending his detention in their custody. Agba’s team of lawyers in Cross River having waited in vain for the charge, have initiated the Enforcement of the Rights of Agba by filing an action in court for the enforcement of his constitutional rights but the Police as usual have refused to accept service of the court process.
The motion for substituted service is now fixed for Monday and one hopes that they judiciary will rise up to its responsibility by protecting the rights of a fellow citizen whose life is in danger in long detention.
While in detention, a civil process initiated by an unknown claimant was served on Agba Jalingo over the publication on the micro finance bank. The claimant is said to be claiming millions of naira in damages against Agba for the said publication that was considered sacrilegious. You begin to wonder whether the civil claim was the sole reason why Agba was abducted from Lagos so that he can be served the civil court process in Calabar!
We are not confused about what is playing out concerning Agba’s arrest and detention. The governor of Cross River State, His Excellency Ben Ayade is behind this arrest. Before the arrest, he has not hidden his hatred and intolerance of Agba’s criticisms of his governnent. He engineered this arrest and detention to prove a point that he is a powerful governor who trample on citizen’s rights and get away with it using the police as a willing and spineless tool.
This is very shameful, childish and condemnable. This is a clear classical case of abuse of power and misplacement of priority in governance! To prove this abuse I understand that Agba has been served with a charge of Treason! Treason carries death penalty gentlemen. What are the facts of this reason, inciting members of the public through his publication over the micro finance bank to over throw Ayade’s government.
Did you hear that? You heard me clearly. The charge is before the Federal High Court that has jurisdiction to try Treason and the federal High Court is on vacation presently till some time later in September. Note that the constitution provides that an accused person should be arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction with 24 hours or maximum 48 hours if there is no court within specified radius. They should not use this vacation excuse to further detain him. It is either they arraign him or release him pending the time they are ready to arraign him.
Several things are very clear over this arrest and detention of Agba Jalingo.
- Agba Jalingo will certainly come out of this contrived allegation and detention stronger and better than his tormentors.
- His tormentors will not last forever in power. For the governor, it is less than four years already, for the CP of Cross River it is a short time, same with the IGP.
- The tormentors today are potential victims of abuse of power tomorrow. Just a matter of time! Ask former President Olusegun Obasanjo ask Al-Mustapha, the former CSO to late Abacha.
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! ENOUGH OF ABUSE OF POWER IN NIGERIA!
Monday Onyekachi Ubani, esq, former vice president II, NBA wrote in from Lagos