|L-R: Wole Soyinka, Agba Jalingo, Asu Okang|
30 December 2019
The Honourable Commissioner for Information and Cultural Orientation in Cross River State, Comr Asu Okang has reportedly faulted over his comments distancing the state government from the arrest and trial of Agba Jalingo the embattled publisher of CrossRiverWatch.
The rebuttal is contained in a piece titled: 12 Things The Cross River State Information Commissioner, Asu Okang Does Not Know
What follows are the twelve points highlighted by ‘Agba Jalingo’ an account on Facebook:
‘1. Prior to his arrest, Agba Jalingo had been begged, warned, and threatened by agents of the Cross River state government to either stop writing critical articles about the government or be ready to ‘face the music’.
2. Governor Ayade had also sent Agba Jalingo a WhatsApp message threatening him with litigation and jail time for exposing attempts by the governor to misappropriate LG funds after the NFIU directive. Jalingo published that text in a news report in SaharaReporters.
3. When all these didn’t yield any result, a plan to arrest him was hatched by the Chief Security Officer to the governor, Mark Anyogo, the Chief of Staff Martin Orim, and the Governor’s younger brother Frank Ayade.
4. The Finance Commissioner, Asuquo Ekpenyong, who is directly affected by the alleged N500m for Micro Finance bank was then dispatched to the IGP Intelligence Response Team office in Lagos to arrange the logistics for Agba Jalingo’s arrest.
5. Jalingo was then picked up by the police and driven down to Calabar and handed over to the anti-cultism unit of the police where government kept sending emmisaries to him.
6. The government of Cross River state began shopping for who will prosecute him as courts were on vacation after his arrest.
7. The State DPP told them there was no case to answer.
8. They approached a sister security agency in the state to take up the matter and try Agba for treason and terrorism but the agency declined saying there wasn’t enough evidence or reason to.
9. The Police under the leadership of the former CP Austin Agbonlahor came in handy and swallowed the bait. He was procured to charge Agba for treason and terrorism.
10. During his time in police detention, agents of the state kept threatening Agba Jalingo to either bow to government pressure to hands off criticising Ayade or he will be charged for treason but Agba refused to bulge.
11. And he was charged as threatened.
12. Even in prison, the state government is still sending emmisaries to him and his lawyers for negotiations, terms of which Jalingo has been resisting.
So the claim by Asu Okang, the information commissioner that the state government has no hand in the ongoing persecution of Agba Jalingo falls flat and sounds very silly.
There are further details that only Agba himself can give. But Agba is in prison today and cannot speak for himself in the face of the falsehood been peddled but we know if he were around, he will give the public details of all the claims made supra.
Someday he will be free and the whole truth will be told in his prison memoirs which he is already writing.
Falsehood has never won truth and one day the roles of everyone in this needless controversy will be laid bare.’
Jalingo who was awarded the Gani Fawehinmi Award for integrity in absentia on Tuesday in Lagos, wrote an article in July demanding the whereabouts of the NGN500 million approved and released by the Cross River State government for the floating of the Cross River Microfinance bank.
He was initially invited by the Cross River State Police command in a letter dated August 14, 2019 to answer to a petition bordering on the article. The interview was slated for August 19. It was, however rescheduled for August 26 and later September 3rd 2019.
But, he was arrested in a gestapo styled operation at his Lagos residence on August 22nd after staff of his wife were held hostage for over four hours.
His arrest, subsequent incarceration and trial has been condemned by individuals, right groups and civil society organizations with Amnesty International declaring him alongside #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore and pro democracy activist, Olawale Bakare as prisoners of conscience.
He was listed as one of the 10 most urgent cases of threats to press freedom by the One Free Press Coalition in October. The Cross River State government accused TIME, a member of that coalition which reported the story of practicing ‘gutter journalism.’
Also, the Cross River State government has been fingered by many as being behind his travails, an allegation the government has continuously denied.