A Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, who is facing treason charges for allegedly criticising a Nigerian governor, is spending Christmas holiday in prison.
Mr Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million belonging to the state.
He is remanded at the Calabar prison, after Justice Simon Amobeda of the Federal High Court, Calabar, denied him bail.
Mr Amobeda announced his withdrawal from the case 14 days ago after a secret recording where he allegedly made some “biased” remarks against Mr Jalingo was leaked to the press.
Mr Jalingo, while reacting to the leaked recording, requested that the case be transferred to another court outside Calabar, to a new judge who would be “less susceptible to local political pressure”
Mr Jalingo’s associate and the news editor of CrossRiverWatch, Jonathan Ugbal, told PREMIUM TIMES on Christmas Eve that the detained journalist was in “very high spirt”.
“I spoke with him this (Tuesday) afternoon and I also sent my cousin there to give him some foodstuff, he is in very high spirit,” Mr Ugbal said.
“As a matter of fact, he was even asking if there was a way we could buy cow head for him (to eat).”
The detained journalist speaks frequently with the wife on the telephone, Mr Ugbal said.
Mr Jalingo recently released prison notes through which he said he would not “bow to force” and urged the people of Cross River to be resolute against dictatorship.
“Dictatorship has never defeated goodwill and a determined people. Even if I end up not standing with you in the summit, remain strong and be rest assured that the arc of life is on our side and we will win,” he said in one of the prison notes.
“When this wind has finished blowing yonder, and it shall soon; we will look back and be glad we stuck our necks on the guillotine and history will only be fair to us, our people shall be free, the will of God would have been done and God’s name will be glorified,” he said.
Mr Jalingo’s trial was in November listed among 10 “most urgent” cases of threats to press freedom around the world.
Amnesty International and several other organisations have been calling for Mr Jalingo’s release from prison.
Apart from Mr Jalingo, another critic of Governor Ayade, Joseph Odok, is spending the holiday in Calabar prison.
Mr Odok, a lawyer, was arrested on September 26 in Abuja and taken to Calabar where he is facing terrorism charges.
His arrest and incarceration is believed to have been instigated by the Governor Ayade, because of his constant criticism of the Cross River government.
“We are on his bail application, there are few documents we are putting together,” Mr Odok’s lawyer, Oliver Osang, told PREMIUM TIMES, on Christmas Day.
Mr Odok’s Facebook page contains critical remarks on Mr Ayade.
In one of his posts on the social media site in September, Mr Odok described the governor as a ‘joker”’
“Ayade keep getting it wrong with lofty projects. Why talk of Spaghetti flyover when you have not maintained or completed a single road project from your first administration?
“A man that can’t complete a single road keeps talking Super High Way, Deep Sea Port and now Spaghetti flyover. This joke is getting out of hands,” he wrote on Facebook.