Human rights activists have petitioned the National Human Rights Commission over what they described as a “trend of despotism”, urging the Commission “to commence an investigation into the growing clampdown on press freedom and freedom of expression in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria.
Their petition dated 28 October 2019, was jointly signed by Deji Adeyanju for Concerned Nigerians; Ariyo-Dare Atoye for Coalition In Defence Of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution; and Adebayo Raphael for Free Nigeria Movement.
Titled “RE: PERSECUTION, ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND ILLEGAL DETENTION OF ACTIVISTS AND JOURNALISTS BY THE GOVERNOR OF CROSS RIVERS STATE”, the letter reads:
We are a civil society organization that prioritizes human rights and good governance in Nigeria. We have consistently taken a stance against the myriad violations of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerians by unscrupulous individuals and public institutions.
It is an unambiguous fact that the National Human Rights Commission, by virtue of the National Human Rights Act of 1995 (as amended in 2010), is saddled with the responsibility of promoting and protecting all human rights in Nigeria.
It is on this basis that we write to petition the commission to commence an investigation into the growing clampdown on press freedom and freedom of expression in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. Specifically, we wish to ask the commission to join Nigerians in resisting and ending the persecution of Agba Jalingo and Joseph Odok by the Cross Rivers State government of Governor Ben Ayade.
Agba Jalingo is a renowned Cross Rivers State Journalist and Activist who was unjustly arrested on August 22, 2019 for criticising Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State, and has since been in detention for same. According to a popular Online Medium in Nigeria, Agba Jalingo was arraigned on Friday, August 30, 2019 at the Federal High Court, Calabar Judicial Division, on four counts bordering on “acts of treason, treasonable felony, and threatening through various publications on crossriverwatch.com and social media, using malicious publications, instigating the people of Nigeria to stage protest for the removal of the Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria from office without due process of law and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 41 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
Similarly, another activist cum blogger named Joseph Odok has been arrested and detained arbitrarily since September 26, 2019 on the order of the Cross Rivers State government and has now been charged with terrorism for publishing a post on Facebook.
We believe that acts of impunity and repression as highlighted above are unfit for any democratic society. And allowing this trend of despotism to continue without consequences will only aggravate the worsening human rights conditions in the country.
We, therefore, beseech you to beam your searchlight into these human rights violations going on in Cross Rivers State and ensure that the victims of state persecution mentioned above are not made to suffer further for exercising their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press as guaranteed by section 39 of the Nigerian constitution.
We trust that you will look into this matter with the unalloyed urgency that it deserves.
Whilst awaiting your esteemed response, please accept the assurances of our highest regards.
FOR: CONCERNED NIGERIANS
FOR: COALITION IN DEFENCE OF NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY AND CONSTITUTION
FOR: FREE NIGERIA MOVEMENT