The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja has asked the Federal Government to pay Agba Jalingo N30million as compensation for ill-treatment and torture by security operatives while in detention in Cross River state.
The court said in a judgment Friday that “Agba Jalingo was arrested and chained to a deep freezer for about 34 days without being charged to court, brutalized and dehumanized in detention.”
The action instituted on Jalingo’s behalf by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sought for reparation for the 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,” the court said.
“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 N30miion 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.”
The court gave the order for compensation after hearing arguments from Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana SAN, and lawyers to the government Abdulahi Abubakar and A. A. Nuhu.
Reacting to the judgment, Femi Falana, a. Senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said: “In view of the ongoing brutalization of hapless Nigerian citizens by the police and other security agencies, this judgment could not have come at a more opportune time than now.
“It is to be hoped that the Federal and state governments and all law enforcement agencies will study the terms of the judgment and desist from further infringing on the human rights of the Nigerian people, including criminal suspects who are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by the State.”
The judgment followed the suit filed by SERAP against the government of Nigeria and Cross River state government over the prolonged, arbitrary detention, unfair prosecution, persecution, and controversial trial of Jalingo.
Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22, 2019 over a report that the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, of diverting N500million belonging to the state.
In the suit No. ECW/CCJ/APP/10/2020, SERAP argued that: “The sole objective of the government of Nigeria and Cross River state 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.”
On August 22, 2019, the Nigeria Police, through its special anti-robbery squad arrested Agba Jalingo. On August 23, 2019, Jalingo was transferred to a detention facility run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police in Calabar, and was held there for days before his arraignment on August 31, 2019.