Amnesty International (AI) has described Cross River as a very hostile state, insisting that the current government under Ben Ayade is running a repressive regime.
Isa Sanusi, media & communications manager of AI, said this in Calabar at the weekend while addressing the media. He said Ayade’s government must stop the repression and that authorities must respect, protect and ensure the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.
The organisation warned that the reported repression of journalists and human rights activists could hinder investors from coming to the state.
“Cross River is becoming a den of repression where increasing number of people are being clamped into detention. Cross River government is very highhanded and repressive. We have written to him several times over the situation in the state as well as continued incarceration of Agba Jalingo but Governor Ayade never bothered to respond,” Sanusi said.
The press conference was held in respect of the continued incarceration of Agba Jalingo, a journalist and human rights campaigner by the state government.
The International Human Rights Watchdog, which also accused the governor of playing politics with the liberty of citizens of the state, called on the governor to release Agba Jalingo “immediately and unconditionally.”
Flanked by the organisation’s researcher, Damian Ugwu, Sanusi said by holding Jalingo in detention over spurious allegations, the governor was working against the people who voted him into power.
“We are concerned that Agba Jalingo’s trial falls short of international standards of fairness, especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and 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.
“Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must stop filing bogus and politically-motivated charges against critics and start listening to what they have to say.
“The pattern of repression in Cross River State flagrantly violates the Nigerian constitution of 1999 as amended, and International and Regional Human and people’s rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a party,” he further said.
Sanusi recalled that Amnesty International had in 2019 declared Jalingo, alongside other journalists and activists, as prisoners of conscience “because he is detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
“Jalingo was arrested at his home in Lagos on 22 August,2019 and driven more than 766 km by road to Calabar, after writing series of articles and social media posts critical of the Cross River State government, his home state,” the group alleged.
MIKE ABANG, Calabar