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Agba Jalingo deserves bail

The argument by the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, that the continued detention of Agba Jalingo, a journalist, is because he is a politician and part of the #RevolutionNow movement is not tenable. After all, the leader of the movement, Omoyele Sowore, had been granted bail since December, last year, and it is public knowledge that Agba Jalingo, the publisher of Cross River Watch, an online media platform, was detained because of some issues with the governor.

In an interview after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Ayade exonerated himself from the travails of the journalist, and blamed President Buhari and the Federal Government, which he claimed Agba Jalingo was working to overthrow. According to the governor: “In court, it is Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State – the same Agba Jalingo who is in jail; I send him money.” The governor claims Jalingo is detained because: “he went back to his Facebook page to post that the revolution had just started, ‘we will continue this battle until revolution works.’ He admitted this in court.”

We urge the governor who is a professor to listen to his incongruous reasoning. So, revolutions are now done on the social media? The governor also claimed that Agba Jalingo is a blackmailer, who got the former governor to pay him monthly to silence him. Hear him: “When he started publishing damaging articles against the state, I called him as a brother. I said look, the former governor told me that you so much blackmailed him, that his wife was detained because she was involved in child trafficking. He had to resort to settling him monthly.”

So is Agba Jalingo detained because he is trying to overthrow President Buhari or is blackmailing Governor Ayade? Interestingly, the governor claims to be funding Agba Jalingo, in the past, even though he has been blackmailing him, and now that he is detained, he has also been fighting for his release. According to the governor, he is “the one working with his lawyers for his freedom.” He went on: “I’m the one sustaining him and sending upkeeps – the same man who once called me a golden brother that I’ve stood with him through tough times.”

In the same interview, Ayade also said: “I am of the opinion that Agba should be released because I think he was just youthfully excited; but let him not use the power of the pen; let him not use journalism and hide to blackmail, chastise, lampoon, destroy another person just for personal economic benefit.” No doubt, the allegation by the governor that Agba Jalingo is a blackmailer is grave, and if the allegation is true, we condemn it.

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But everything is wrong with the claim being lumped with a divergent claim that Agba Jalingo is being detained because he is trying to overthrow the Federal Government.  Why would the governor succumb to the blackmail, by paying the bills of the journalist when he was free, and now that he is gagged, the governor is laying grievous allegation that the detainee is not free to rebut? Perhaps, the governor is now blackmailing Agba Jalingo, now that he is in detention? Whatever may be the reason for the indefinite detention of Agba Jalingo, we urge that he should be granted bail. We urge the court to remember that it is not just enough for the prosecution to accuse a defendant of a grievous offence. The court is bound to look at the proof of evidence, and if they are wishy-washy, as we believe Agba Jalingo charges are, grant the defendant bail. We urge the President to intervene, if need be.       

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