The ECOWAS court of Justice, Abuja has ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay a compensation fee of N30 million to a Nigerian journalist, Mr Agba Jalingo over violation of his fundamental rights.
The court in its ruling on Friday declared the arrest and detention of Jalingo as unlawful.
The court ruled that Jalingo was ill-treated and tortured for 34 days without following legal process. The court further gave the Federal Government three months to respond to its order.
The court in its judgment said: “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.”
“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.”
Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch was arrested on August 22, 2019, and incarcerated until a High court in Cross River granted his bail after spending 179 days in detention.
He was charged with terrorism and treason following a report published by his Cross River Watch alleging that Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade, diverted public funds up to N500 million.
Jalingo, in the report alleged that the N500m was meant for the establishment of a microfinance bank in Cross River.
Following the arrest of the journalist, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), instituted a lawsuit against the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Cross River State.
SERAP, in the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/10/20 prayed the regional Court to order the Federal Government to drip the treason and terrorism charge against Jalingo and as well pay him compensation.
The organisation in the suit also sued the government for the use of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015, Terrorism (Prevention Amendment), 2013 and the Criminal Code Act to unlawfully charge Mr Jalingo before the Federal High Court, Calabar Judicial Division.
Reacting to the court order, SERAP described the victory as a step in the right direction.
The organisation further urged the government to study the court’s ruling and desist from infringing on the rights of the citizens.
This was made available in a statement issued by SERAP’s counsel, Mr Femi Falana, (SAN).
The statement reads, “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.”