Agba Jalingo, posing in front of Calabar prisons after his release on Monday.

By Abasifreke Effiong

Agba Jalingo, the Nigerian journalist who was on trial for treason has been finally released, 174 days after he was arrested.

Speaking briefly on phone with this reporter, Agba Jalingo, said it feels good to be back home.

“It is a good feeling. I feel good that I am back here with every other person. Congratulations to everyone that made it possible.”

Jalingo said he is thankful to everyone who worked to secure his release.

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Barr. James Ibor, one of Jalingo’s counsel, told The Dune that friends and family members were happy to have Agba Jalingo back home.

He said “the whole environment was charged.”

“He has not met with his wife yet, but we are all together with family in Calabar. The environment here is very charged. From the court to where we are now, the whole place is charged.”

“We are at his elder brother’s house now. From here we are going to the CrossRiverWatch office”, Ibor said.

Agba Jalingo was hosted at his elder brother’s house in Calabar where his family members and friends received him.

When this reporter spoke to Agba Jalingo on phone, people were singing in the background.

They sang a popular worship song “Let all the glory be to the Lord, for He is is worthy of our praise, no man on earth should give glory to himself, for all the glory must be to the Lord.”

A Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Barr. Inibehe Effiong, who was among those who campaigned for his release posted Facebook a photo of Agba Jalingo , posing in front of Calabar prison after his release on Monday.

In the photo, Jalingo wore a black polo with an inscription, “we must not allow dictatorship to win” on it. He raised up his two hands above his head, a sign which signifies freedom.

'I feel good that I am back' - Agba Jalingo Agba Jalingo leaving Calabar prisons on Monday afternoon.

Mr Jalingo, who is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch newspaper was arrested on August 22, 2019, over a report alleging that Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million belonging to the state.

Justice Sule Shuaibu of the Federal High Court, Calabar, on Thursday granted the journalist N10 million bail, following an application from his lawyer, Attah Ochinke.

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The court asked that those standing as surety for the journalist must make a refundable deposit of N700,000 to court registry to perfect the bail.

The bail conditions were only met today. Jalingo will return to court on March 6.

The court has given the prosecution three days, 6th, 7th and 8th of March to open and close their case.

Agba Jalingo was also given three days too to open and close his defense, one of his lawyers said.

Premium Times reported last week that Jalingo’s case is prosecuted by the Cross River government which took over the case from the police. On the prosecution team were led the Attorney General of Cross River state, Tanko Ashang, and the Director of Public Prosecution in the state’s Ministry of Justice, Greg Okem.

The Nigerian government and the Cross River government have been under intense pressure from several groups globally to free Mr Jalingo who has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

“We are concerned that Agba Jalingo’s trial falls short of international standards of fairness, especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret.

“The flawed charges and sham trial of Agba Jalingo have exposed the inadequacies and manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for human rights and the rule of law,” Amnesty International said recently.

“Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must stop filing bogus and politically motivated charges against critics and start listening to what they have to say.

“The case of Agba Jalingo is just one of many cases of blatant violations of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in Cross River state and several parts of Nigeria. Joseph Odok was also unlawfully detained and later charged with terrorism solely for expressing critical opinion on social media.”