A Federal High Court, Calabar, has dismissed the terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime charges against Agba Jalingo.
The judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, on Monday, dismissed the charges against Mr Jalingo, the publisher of an online newspaper, CrossRiverWatch, after the Cross River State Government withdrew the charges against him, according to a report published by CrossRiverWatch.
Mr Jalingo was arrested in August 2019 for accusing the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, of diverting N500 million belonging to the state.
He was charged for terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime, and incarcerated for about 179 days, despite global outrage against the government’s action.
Mr Jalingo’s lawyer, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, commended Cross River State attorney-general for withdrawing the charges against his client.
“We are happy that our harassment has ended,” said Mr Olumide-Fusika who was accompanied by two other lawyers, F. Baba Isa and Kehole Enya.
“While Agba Jalingo is detained for his critical opinions, both Cross River and federal governments are collaborating, through the manipulation of the criminal justice system to keep him behind bars,” the Amnesty spokesperson, Sanusi Isa, told reporters in Calabar, February 2020.
Mr Isa said Agba Jalingo’s trial fell short of international standards of fairness, “especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret”.
“The flawed charges and sham trial of Agba Jalingo have exposed the inadequacies and manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for human rights and the rule of law,” he added.
At some point in the trial, Mr Jalingo was brought to the court in handcuffs, apparently to humiliate and break him.
Mr Jalingo told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday, he always knew that the court would rule in his favour in the case.
“I knew from day one that I did not commit the offence, I knew it was just a matter of time for the court to throw the matter away,” he said.
“It’s just painful that our system is skewed in this manner where three years of my time has been wasted coming from Lagos to Calabar because of a sham trial,” he said.
The journalist said he was waiting for advice from his lawyers, whether to sue the government or not, even though he had told his wife he was leaving vengeance to God.
“You need to always be strong if you have to overcome evil,” Mr Jalingo said.
He said he was arrested in Lagos and taken to Calabar like a cow, and that the intention of those who locked him up was to break him.
He also said there was pressure on him, while under incarceration, to write an apology letter to the Cross River government, which he refused.
“Their intention was to scare me, push me until I break. So the lesson I have learnt is that it is better to hold on. Even when at the breaking point, take a deep breath, pray to God, believe in God and ask him to give you strength.
“I think today, the person that will really feel bad is the governor of Cross River State and those who locked me up. Wherever they are now, I think their conscience is talking to them,” he said.
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