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ECOWAS Court Orders FG To Pay Agba Jalingo N30m

The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay journalist Agba Jalingo N30m as compensation for torture while in detention in Cross River State.

In a judgment on Friday, the court said the journalist was arrested and chained to a deep freezer for about 34 days without being charged to court, brutalized and dehumanized.

“This action taken on Jalingo’s behalf by SERAP seeks from this court reparation for inhuman treatment and torture meted out to him. We have looked at the evidence before us. There was no answer as to the facts that Jalingo was arrested and illegally detained, brutalized and dehumanized,” the court ruled.

The court held the act violated the international human rights treaties, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, adding that the “Nigerian government has flouted the provisions of these treaties on international fair trial standards.”

SERAP counsel, Femi Falana hailed the court ruling, saying the judgment could not have come at a more opportune time than now “in view of the ongoing brutalization of hapless Nigerian citizens by the police and other security agencies.”

He said in a statement, “It is to be hoped that the Federal and state governments and all law enforcement agencies will study the terms of the judgment and desist from further infringing on the human rights of the Nigerian people, including criminal suspects who are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by the State.”

The judgment followed the suit filed by SERAP against the Federal Government and the Cross River State Government to ECOWAS Court over the prolonged, arbitrary detention; unfair prosecution; persecution, and sham trial of Mr Jalingo.

Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that Mr Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state.

The court gave the order for compensation after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, and lawyers to the government Abdulahi Abubakar and A. A. Nuhu.

In the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/10/2020, SERAP argued that: “The sole objective of the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade is to perpetually keep Agba Jalingo in arbitrary detention and to silence him simply for expressing critical views and carrying out his legitimate job as a journalist.”

The suit, read in part: “The harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecution and arbitrary detention of Agba Jalingo simply for exercising his human rights violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which the country is a state party.”

“The government of Nigeria and the Cross-River state government of governor Ben Ayade have via the charges of terrorism and treason and denial of bail to Agba Jalingo, violated and continued to breach his human rights.”

“SERAP contends that Agba Jalingo is being unfairly prosecuted because of his reporting in his online news outlet, Cross River Watch, which alleged that the Cross Rivers State Governor diverted the sum of N500 Million, belonging to the Cross-River Micro Finance Bank.”

“On 22nd August 2019, the Nigeria Police, through its special anti-robbery squad arrested Agba Jalingo. On 23rd August 2019, Mr. Jalingo was transferred to a detention facility run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police in Calabar, the capital of Nigeria’s southern Cross River state and was held there for days before his arraignment on 31st August, 2019.”

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