The ECOWAS Court of Justice will on June 29, 2021 deliver judgement in a suit against Nigeria and Cross River State, challenging the arrest and prosecution of a journalist, Agba Jalingo.
The publisher was charged under the Cybercrime, Terrorism and Criminal Code Acts. At a virtual court session, the court heard his oral testimony.
Led in evidence by Kolawale Oluwadare, the counsel representing the applicant, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Jalingo recounted how security officials broke into his house and picked him.
The arrest was after he wrote an article in which he alleged that a N500million expenditure by the Cross River government for the establishment of a microfinance bank was diverted.
He told the court led by Honorable Justice Edward Amoako Asante that he was taken on a 26-hour journey and was not allowed to dismount from the vehicle.
Jalingo was detained at a facility run by the anti-cult and anti-kidnapping police for 34 days before his arraignment on August 31, 2019.
In suit no: ECW/CCJ/APP/10/20, SERAP is suing the defendants for the use of Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015, Terrorism (Prevention Amendment), 2013 and the Criminal Code Act to unlawfully charge Jalingo before the Federal High Court, Calabar Judicial Division.
Mr. Jalingo was released on bail after 179 days in detention. His offence attracts life imprisonment and death penalty.
The applicant contends that the defendants and their agents have consistently used the provisions of the Terrorism Act, Cybercrime Act and other repressive laws to harass, arbitrarily arrest, detain and prosecute journalists, activists and other Nigerians.
SERAP wants an order directing the defendants to drop all charges against Jalingo and unconditionally set him free from prison. They want Nigeria and/or agents to provide effective remedies and reparation, including adequate compensation.
The court had struck out the second defendant, Cross River State from the suit, for not being a proper defendant before the ECOWAS Court, and a signatory of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS.
However, the 1st defendant, Nigeria, a Member State of ECOWAS, through its counsel, Chijioke Amadi filed and adopted his preliminary objection arguing that Jalingo had been granted bail and is being prosecuted at a competent court,
Also on the panel of the Court are Hon. Justices Dupe Atoki and Januaria Tavares Silva Moreira Costa.