THE Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice in Abuja has ordered President Muhammadu Buhari administration to pay Nigerian journalist Agba Jalingo N30 million.
The money is compensation for the ill-treatment and torture of Jalingo while in detention in Cross River State.
According to a statement by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the court maintained that Jalingo was arrested and chained to a deep freeze for about 34 days without being charged to any court in Nigeria.
The court noted that having studied the suit and facts provided by SERAP, it found no answer as to why Jalingo was arrested and illegally detained, brutalised and dehumanised.
The court said the action of security agencies was against human rights agreements, particularly the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The Nigerian government was lambasted for flouting the provisions of treaties on international fair trial standards.
“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 N30 million to Mr. Jalingo for violations of his human rights,” the judgment read.
The Buhari administration was ordered to comply within three months, and file a process to the effect.
Legal luminary Femi Falana said in view of the ongoing brutalisation of hapless Nigerians by the police and other security arms, the judgment came at the right time.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) told the federal, state governments and all law enforcement agencies to study the verdict.
Falana warned them to desist from infringing on the human rights of the Nigerian people, including criminal suspects presumed innocent until the contrary was proved in court.
Agba Jalingo was arrested in August 2019 by security operatives in Lagos following a report written by him and published in July 2019 with the headline ‘How Ayade Approved And Diverted N500million For Cross River Micro-Finance Bank’ on his news website, CrossRiverWatch.
The report questioned the governor on how he spent the approved N500million released for the Cross River State Micro-Finance Bank.
He was subsequently charged with disturbance of public peace and treason.
He was granted bail by the Federal High Court, Calabar Division, in February 2020, in the sum of N10million with one surety in like sum after spending 174 days in detention.
Before Jalingo was freed, several groups, both locally and internationally, had called for his release even as Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.