Defence & Security

Police release journalist, Jalingo after intervention of Falana, Sowore

By Paul Michael

The police in Abuja have released the publisher of “Cross River Watch”, Agba Jalingo, who was on Friday arrested at his residence in Lagos.

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, earlier faulted the police for the arrest and detention of a journalist over a civil issue.

It was gathered that the journalist had in his newspaper, Cross River Watch, questioned the rationale behind the arrest and prosecution of a lecturer who wrote examinations for someone in the Nigerian Law School, Abuja while the student is being treated like a sacred cow.

The student was said to have failed Law School Bar examination in her first attempt and then hired a university teacher to write it for her a second time.

The lecturer, however, was caught and has been arraigned in court while the said student is walking freely, thus the publication of Jalingo.

The publication was said to have angered the family of the student, Mrs Elizabeth Alami Ayade, wife of Franco Ayade, the younger brother of the Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade.

Consequently, a petition was written to the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, who then detailed a special police squad led by one SP Danbaba M Alura from Abuja to Lagos to arrest Jalingo who was flown to Abuja.

Reacting to the development, Falana said the journalist has not committed any offence known to the provisions of the Criminal Code, saying it is a civil case.

He demanded the immediate release of the journalist while describing the action of the petitioner and the police as “the height of official impunity in a democratic society.”

Falana said, “Based on the information at my disposal, I was compelled to demand for his unconditional release since he has contravened any provision of the Criminal Code. But the police officers informed me that his detention was ordered by the Authorities in Abuja.

“Thus, at about 11 am this morning (Saturday) he was flown out of Lagos and he is currently being detained at the Criminal Investigation Department, Garki, Abuja.

“The ongoing harassment of Agba based on the allegation that he has defamed the wife of the brother of a serving Governor is the height of official impunity in a democratic society.

“Since defamation is not a criminal offence, the action of the Police is a flagrant breach of section 8(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and section 32(2) of the Police Establishment Act 2020 which have banned the police from arresting any person in Nigeria for civil wrong or breach of contract.

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“Therefore, the police Authorities should release Agba Jalingo unconditionally and advise the petitioner to sue for libel in a civil court.”

On his part, Sowore accused the IGP of harassing innocent Nigerians that are merely expressing their opinions on the social media and internet.

He described the action of the police as ‘unlawful policing’ while demanding for the unconditional release of Jalingo.

“The IG of Police devoted a ‘Special Unit’ to these VIPs dedicated to harassing, brutalising, torturing and kidnapping Nigerians posting opinions on the internet about the fraudulent and sometimes scandalous lifestyles of these VIPs.

“Today, Agba Jalingo is being detained accused of raising concerns over the prosecution of a lecturer hired by the wife of Franco Ayade, the younger brother of the Calabar-based tyrant, Governor Ben Ayade. According to the sources, his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Alami Ayade, failed Law School Bar examination and then hired a university lecturer to write it for her a second time. The lecturer was caught and is being prosecuted (as I was told).

“As a journalist, public conscience and social critic, Agba Jalingo questioned why the woman, who procured the lecturer hadn’t been apprehended.

“Instead of swinging into action, the police were procured to kidnap Agba Jalingo from Lagos, a team of policemen led by one SP Danbaba M Alura led the team from CID Garki, Abuja and flown into Lagos to kidnap journalist Jalingo. This morning (Saturday) Femi Falana (SAN) visited Agba Jalingo at the ‘Area F’ holding cell in Ikeja. He was politely told this is ‘IG’s personal case’.

“The police officers on duty said they can’t even entertain legal intervention until Agba Jalingo is flown to Abuja. Apparently, Ayade and family have paid for a one way ticket to have Agba flown to Abuja with the team of police officers sent to fetch him for what is purely a civil matter. In fact, it is Franko’s wife that should be flown to Abuja in handcuffs for examination malpractice.

“Today, Nigeria is beset with a myriad of security challenges because the Nigerian police has abandoned its constitutional duties to other security agencies and non state paramilitary units.

“With a 350,000 men, the police force though inadequate could be doing better in protecting the citizenry but corruption, incompetence, scandalous recruitment, poor feeding as well as poor remuneration has ruined the police force,” Sowore said.

Following the intervention and public condemnation, the Police on Saturday night released the journalist.

Sowore, who shared a video of Jalingo’s release on his Facebook page, said the FCT police command granted bail to the journalist.

“He’ll be back on Monday. We will never allow impunity to thrive in our country,” he added.

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