HURIWA Condemns Arrest Of Punch Reporter, Applauds ECOWAS Court On Agba Jalingo

The reported arrest by the law enforcement officers of the reporter of the PUNCH Newspapers from the premises of Dunamis Church in Abuja has been described by the leading media affiliated and pro-democracy civil society group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) as another level of persistent attacks of the media by the unruly goons working for President Muhammadu Buhari just as the Rights group has asked that the reporter be released unconditionally.

HURIWA recalled that security operatives had reportedly arrested a PUNCH Newspapers correspondent, Solomon Odeniyi at Dunamis Church in Abuja.

The journalist was at the church on Sunday to cover a live event.

“We want the international community to take special note that there is an ongoing move to instal a full blown dictatorial regime in Nigeria and the steps adopted against the media are in tandem with systematic approach to institutionalisation of tyranny in Nigeria. The World must act to stop Nigeria from collapsing because once dictatorship takes firmed ground, the nation will inevitably collapse”.

The Rights Advocacy Group said the journalist Mr. Solomon was carrying out his job when he was identified and whisked away just as he has not been allowed to either pick his calls or contact anyone,  an action the Rights group described as unconstitutional and unlawful.

HURIWA recalled that penultimate Sunday, the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested some activists at Dunamis also during church service, for wearing “BuhariMustGo” shirts and are still been kept in solitary confinement.

Reacting to this latest act of systematic and methodical violations by the federal government of the Constitutionally guaranteed function of the media as spelt out in Section 22 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended which confers on the media the role as the Vanguard and conscience of the nation, HURIWA said it is totally absurd, crude, primitive, reprehensible and is an indescribable and egregious assault to the constitutional democracy that we claim to be practicing.

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In a statement by Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko the National Coordinator and the Director of Media Affairs Miss. Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA upbraided President Buhari’s government for finding obscene satisfaction in violently denying media workers their rights to practice their legitimate duties.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to order the release of the PUNCH correspondent and we ask the government to stop all kinds of coordinated attacks against media freedoms and media practitioners because the media is an essential element of constitutional democracy without which we will slide into anarchy and tyranny of one man’s brute force and dictatorial oppression and suppression  of the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Nigeria who by law made clear in the Constitution by virtue of section 14 are the owners of the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and who have donated the legitimacy to government officials to exercise authority for a tenured period after which they must hand over to another set of elected officials who have the mandate of the people of Nigeria.

Relatedly, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA has commended the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja for the landmark verdict that “ordered the Federal Government to pay journalist Agba Jalingo N30m as compensation for ill-treating and torturing him while in detention in Cross River state.”

HURIWA quoted the ECOWAS  court as ruling thus: “Agba Jalingo was arrested and chained to a deep freezer for about 34 days without being charged to court, brutalized and dehumanized. This action taken on Jalingo’s behalf by SERAP seeks from this court reparation for inhuman treatment and torture meted out to him. We have looked at the evidence before us. There was no answer as to the facts that Jalingo was arrested and illegally detained, brutalized and dehumanized.”

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“This is against international human rights treaties, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party. The Nigerian government has flouted the provisions of these treaties on international fair trial standards.” For these reasons, on the claims of compensation for ill-treatment and torture, SERAP has been able to establish the claims. We condemn the Nigerian government for these acts, and hereby award compensation of N30m to Mr Jalingo for violations of his human rights. The Nigerian government must comply with the order of the court within three months, and file a process to this court to this effect.”

HURIWA recalled that in the suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/10/2020, SERAP argued that: “The sole objective of the government of Nigeria and the Cross River state government of governor Ben Ayade is to perpetually keep Agba Jalingo in arbitrary detention and to silence him simply for expressing critical views and carrying out his legitimate job as journalist.”

The suit, read in part: “The harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecution and arbitrary detention of Agba Jalingo simply for exercising his human rights violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which the country is a state party.”

“The government of Nigeria and the Cross-River state government of governor Ben Ayade have via the charges of terrorism and treason and denial of bail to Agba Jalingo, violated and continued to breach his human rights.”

“SERAP had contended successfully that Agba Jalingo is being unfairly prosecuted because of his reporting in his online news outlet, Cross River Watch, which alleged that the Cross Rivers State Governor diverted the sum of N500 Million, belonging to the Cross-River Micro Finance Bank.”

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“On 22nd August 2019, the Nigeria Police, through its special anti-robbery squad arrested Agba Jalingo. On 23rd August 2019, Mr. Jalingo was transferred to a detention facility run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police in Calabar, the capital of Nigeria’s southern Cross River state and was held there for days before his arraignment on 31st August, 2019.”

HURIWA has therefore asked President Muhammadu Buhari to comply forthwith and meet the obligations imposed on government by the unambiguous judgment by the ECOWAS Court as aforementioned.

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