Popular journalist, Agba Jalingo, has been charged with treason by the police for allegedly criticising Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, and attempting to incite the people of the state against Ayade through his publication.
However, in a swift reaction, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), lambasted the state governor for abuse of power, asking him to sue Jalingo for defamation instead.
Falana also slammed the police for being a willing tool of oppression against Nigerians despite a subsisting Court of Appeal ruling that a public officer who has been defamed cannot use the machinery of the state to harass citizens.
he statement read in part, “A Nigerian cannot be charged with any criminal offence for criticising a governor or any other public officer in Nigeria. In Nwankwo v State (1985) NCLR 247, the Court of Appeal held that any public officer who feels defamed by any publication should sue for libel as it is illegal to use the machinery of the state to harass political opponents in Nigeria.
“But in utter disregard of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Nwankwo’s case, the Nigeria Police Force has just charged Mr. Agba Jalingo with terrorism for criticising Governor Ayade of Cross River State.
“Since the charge constitutes a gross abuse of judicial process, we call on the Inspector-General of Police to discontinue or withdraw it without any delay. If Governor Ayade feels offended by any statement made by Mr Jalingo, he is advised to sue for libel in the High Court of Cross River State.”
Jalingo, who runs news website, Cross River Watch, had accused Ayade of embezzling government funds to the tune of N500m.
The journalist, who is an ally of Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, was detained a few weeks ago by the police.