Agba Jalingo, a Nigerian journalist who is on trial for treason, has reportedly been disowned by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Cross River State Council.
Jalingo, the publisher of the online CrossRiverWatch, has been in prison in Calabar. He is charged with treason over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade.
The NUJ chairman in Cross River, Victor Dan, reportedly said Jalingo is not a member of the union, apparently justifying why the union at the state level has been silent over the continuous incarceration of the journalist.
Jalingo’s trial was in November listed among 10 “most urgent” cases of threats to press freedom around the world.
Amnesty International and several other organisations have been calling for Jalingo’s release from prison
The NUJ in Cross River is not known to have spoken up or issued a single statement condemning the continuous detention and trial of Jalingo.
“It’s true they told us he (Jalingo) is not their member,” the spokesperson of Amnesty International in Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, said of a meeting he had in Calabar with the NUJ chairman, Dan, over Jalingo’s travails.
Sanusi travelled to Calabar and met Dan on November 15 to press upon the NUJ in the state to speak out on Jalingo’s case. The meeting took place at the Ernest Etim-Bassey Press Centre, Calabar.
Dan declined comment on the matter when contacted on Monday.
But, Darlington Edem, the chairman of the Association of Cross River Online Journalists, said he was disappointed with the way NUJ in Cross River has remained quiet over Jalingo’s trial.
“So far, they have been so quiet, there has been no word from the NUJ chairman,” Edem said on Monday. “It is a huge disappointment.”
Jalingo is a well-known journalist in Cross River as well as a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Edem said.
“We are all journalists, we go to cover events together. If Cross River State NUJ is saying they would not talk because Agba Jalingo is not their member, then why is the national body (NUJ) talking?” he said.
The national leadership of NUJ, unlike the Cross River state council, has, however, said the union would not abandon Jalingo.
The NUJ president, Chris Isiguzo, told newsmen, Monday, that the NUJ would stand up for the incarcerated journalist “even if he is not a member of the union”.
“From Cross River, they have told us he is not our member and all that, but I have told them clearly that whatever it takes, let us solidarise with him, do whatever we are able to do, get him out and then take care of the rest,” Isiguzo said.
“Whether or not he is our member, it is incumbent upon us to protect all journalists.
“We did a letter to the governor, Ben Ayade, we asked him to free the young man. But up till now, we have not received any response.
“I have asked that they furnish me with information on the next court sitting, I will personally be in court, and once I am in court be rest assured that all the journalists and the leadership of NUJ (in Cross River) would join me to the court,” he added.