The Coalition of Cross River State Civil Society Organisations has asked the Cross River State Government to shelve it’s “humanity” theme for the 2019 Carnival Calabar and festivals due to the continued incarceration of journalist, Agba Jalingo, and lawyer Joseph Odok.
The duo are have been remanded at the medium security custodial center in Calabar for 94 and 67 days respectively following their separate arraignments before the Calabar division of the Federal High Court on September 25th and October 22nd, 2019.
While four counts bordering on terrorism and cybercrime were preferred against Jalingo in the amended charges with Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State said to be he nominal complainant, two counts bordering on terrorism and cyberstalking were preferred against Odok by the governor’s Chief of Staff, Martins Orim.
The CCRSCSO, after a visit to Jalingo, in a statement by Anthony Bissong Attah, Iso Edim, Richard Inoyo, Ukorebi Esien, Efio-Ita Nyok and Simon Utsu, said there was nothing human about the 2019 Carnival Calabar while the duo remained behind bars.
The coalition issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the government to release Jalingo and Odok or change the humanity theme of it’s carnival.
It also vowed to boycott the carnival and will urge international bodies to do same.
The statement reads, “We issue a 48-hour ultimatum demanding the release of the two activists Agba Jalingo and Joseph Odok without conditions.
“That if (i) above is not met, we demand that the international community and the generality of the Nigerian public in solidarity with the incarcerated journalist and activist boycott the 28 December 2019 Carnival celebration in Calabar.
“The first official assignment of the newly inaugurated Commissioner for Humanity in Cross River State, Blessing Egbara, is to comply with (i) above.
“Should the commissioner fail in her first official assignment, we call on Governor Ben Ayade to immediately replace the theme of Carnival Calabar 2019 to something else in order to avoid a contest of semantics and prevent the misrepresentation of human right reality within Cross River State to Nigerians and the international community.”
CCRSCSO noted that it is aware of a sinister move by the government to further arrest rights activist and charge them with offences similar to that of Jalingo and Odok.
Jalingo’s case was listed as one of the the 10 most urgent cases of threats to press freedom by the One Free Press Coalition in October.
The Cross River State Government accused TIME, a member of that Coalition, which reported the story, of practicing “gutter journalism.”
SaharaReporters, New York