By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisation, CSOs, Friday, demanded from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to prevail on the Governors of Cross River and Akwa Ibom States, Prof Ben Ayade and Emmanuel Odom, to unconditionally release a journalist, Mr. Agba Jalingo, and a banker, Mr. Michael Itok respectively.
This was contained in a Letter of Petition addressed to the National Chairman, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, which was signed by the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN, Comrade Deji Adeyanju; Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, CDNDC, Ariyo-Dare Atoye; and Convener, Free Nigeria Movement, FNM, Adebayo Raphael.
They explained that the National Chairman should quickly prevail on the two governors to release the duo from custody and said Nigerians can no longer indulge in the rising intolerance by executives at the state level, and would not accept violation of rights in the country. The letter added that if such state executives cannot withstand public criticism they should resign.
According to them the PDP leadership should not sit and watch impunity and oppression by its governors in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States who allegedly perpetrate violation of citizens’ rights, because expressing their views through criticism.
They also expressed concern over actions of elected governors by being tough and hard on those who elected them instead of listening and accepting criticisms under a democratic dispensation, which they described as executive tyranny.
The letter further alleged that the Cross River State Governor is about to commence secret trial of Jalingo, which they said it was an aberration to the rights of Jalingo and should be stopped.
They also called on the party to ensure that the two victims were released before Christmas and New Yew celebrations from custody.
The letter reads in part, “We write to express our displeasure and condemn the insensitivity of your party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), on the rising intolerance and disturbing cases of human rights violations, in some States where your party members presently hold sway.
“It is unfortunate that as the leading opposition party which regularly condemns the lawlessness of the ruling party at the Centre, some of your governors, specifically Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, have chosen the odious path of intolerance while embarking on coercive campaigns of arrest and arbitrary detention of social critics and political activists, perceived as enemies for being critical of their governments.
“This act of executive tyranny is a gross violation of the Fundamental Human Rights of the victims as guaranteed under Sections 39 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). We make bold to say that the kitchen of Leadership is not meant for those who cannot stand the test and heat of public criticisms. At every level, leaders must develop the capacity to respond to criticisms with facts and figures to set the records straight.
“Mr. Agba Jalingo, a journalist who was arrested, kept incommunicado for weeks, and is now being prosecuted in handcuffs on charges of treasonable felony, terrorism and attempt to topple the Cross River State Government, after 34 days in police custody; because he published a report exposing how Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State approved and immediately diverted N500m meant for Cross River State Microfinance bank.
“Again, Mr. Michael Itok, a 21 year-old Bank marketer with Prudential Microfinance Bank, Uyo, has been arrested and remanded in prison custody for weeks on the order of Governor Udom Emmanuel for allegedly publishing “damaging and annoying” articles on Facebook against the governor.
“According to a report on a credible news platform, Mr. Itok was on Tuesday, 26 November 2019, arraigned before a magistrate court in Uyo, by the State Security Service, SSS. He was accused of writing numerous articles against the Akwa Ibom governor and other officials of the State’s government.
“The action of Governor Ayade and Governor Udom amounts to a violation of Mr. Jalingo and Mr. Itok’s rights to free speech and press freedom. Both men, we believe, have merely done what the PDP does regularly when criticizing the ruling APC. It is, therefore, disingenuous to see governors from your party committing same egregious violations that you often condemn.
“Since the governors of these aforementioned States are members of your party, we urge you, as a matter of urgency, to prevail on both governors and others yet to be identified, to drop all frivolous charges against all the prisoners of conscience in their respective States.
“We believe sir, that your party, the PDP must have a clear stand on human rights violations and democratic freedoms. We equally believe that these acts of human rights violations must be strongly condemned and put to an end within your party; just as you demand of the ruling party, APC.”
The CSOs also tasked the leading opposition party including the Social Democratic Party, SDP, All Peoples Grand Alliance, APGA, and others to make their stance known to the Executive and National Assembly, on stemming tide of treasonable charges against Nigerians including the Social Media and Hate Speech Bills at the National Assembly.
“We also wish to task your party to take a definite stand on the raging public agitation against the two obnoxious bills in the National Assembly. Although the Social Media Bill and Hate Speech Bill are already being condemned by some senators from your party, we have nonetheless seen a few members of your party, specifically Senators Elisha Abbo and Abba Moro, supporting the Bills.
“Mr. Chairman, it is our fervent believe that Democracy will die the day citizens can no longer express themselves freely, whether rightly or wrongly.
“Whilst anticipating your urgent action, please accept the assurances of our high regards”, it added