Publisher of Cross River Watch, Mr. Agba Jalingo, yesterday, relieved his 179 harrowing days in Calabar Prison.
He described his experience as “a huge lesson”.
Jalingo, who arrived at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, two days after he was released from Calabar Prison, said he went on a six-month course and was now equipped on how to be a voice for the voiceless.
According to him, this important, especially with the way politicians run the affairs of the country.
He recalled that trouble started after he exposed the alleged monumental fraud perpetrated by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State. This, he said, was after the governor allegedly withdrew N3.5 billion from the local government accounts to fund his re-election and another N500 million from Micro Finance accounts.
Jalingo, who described Ayade as his brother, denied ever making demands or receiving any gratification. The publisher challenged the governor to come up with facts to back his claims.
He said: “The governor is my brother. I did a lot to promote him before he became governor. I made it part of my duty to continue to support him to succeed. I did that to substantial extent until he decided to derail.
“Last year when he was going to run for election, he withdrew N3.4 billion from local government funds to run his re-election campaign. I drew his attention to it. He was not happy. That was where our problem started. He promised he was going to send me to jail. The N500 million micro finance money was what broke the camel’s back. He could not take it any longer.
“In Cross River in particular and Nigeria in general, you discover that these leaders don’t want us to ask questions. If I ask you what you did with N500 million from micro finance bank, what I expect are answers, not incarceration. I call on Nigerians to say there is a lot to be done. The little space we grabbed from the military, the politicians are shutting it down for us. The earlier we wake up and maintain our position, the better for us.”
The activist insisted that the Federal Government did not have a hand in his incarceration. He put his arrest and prosecution on the doorsteps of Ayade, adding that he saw his arrest coming.
“He has a hand in my prosecution. He has a hand in my arrest. I saw my arrest coming because they told me they were going to arrest me. I knew they were coming for me. In fact, when the Commissioner for Finance came to Lagos, he paid for the logistics of my arrest. He called, but I was in Abuja. I knew they were around my neighbourhood and I was prepared for it. My arrest was made by Governor Ben Ayade; his younger brother paid for the logistics of my arrest. They cannot put the blame elsewhere. It is act of cowardice to arrest someone and come around to deny it. He is the one that is responsible for my prosecution.”
On way forward, he vowed that that his team would go ahead to consolidate on what it had and keep pushing ahead. He noted that they were building bridges with so many people to ensure that politicians do not take the space for good governance.
Jalingo was first arrested by the police in August 2019 on the alleged orders of the Ayade-led Cross River State government. He was subsequently arraigned for treason and attempting to overthrow the state government due to highly critical articles he published.
Due to his long detention, Amnesty International had declared the activist, “a prisoner of conscience”.
Last week, there were series of protests staged in Cross River State over his detention.
Culled from New Telegraph