The ECOWAS Court in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government to pay journalist Agba Jalingo N30m as compensation for ill-treatment and torture while in detention in Cross River State.
The court in the judgment explained that the compensation was necessary because the journalist was subjected to inhumane treatment while in custody. He was arrested and chained to a deep freezer for about 34 days without being charged to court, brutalized and dehumanized.
According to the court, the act violated the international human rights treaties, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, adding that the “Nigerian government has flouted the provisions of these treaties on international fair trial standards.”
The judgment followed the suit filed by SERAP against the Federal Government and the Cross River State Government to ECOWAS Court over the prolonged, arbitrary detention; unfair prosecution; persecution, and sham trial of Jalingo.
However, SERAP’s counsel, Femi Falana, in a statement says the judgment could not have come at a more opportune time than now “in view of the ongoing brutalization of hapless Nigerian citizens by the police and other security agencies.”
He said, “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.”
Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22 over a report alleging that Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state.