Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has said he thinks embattled journalist, Agba Jalingo, should be released from prison.
Speaking after a long silence on the matter, Governor Ayade said the journalist, who is standing trial for treason and for allegedly criticising his government, acted out of youthful exuberance.
He said: “I am of the opinion that Agba should be released because I think he was just youthfully excited.
“If you ask Agba Jalingo today, I am the one working with his lawyers for his freedom, I am the one sustaining him and sending upkeeps.”
The governor also denied being the one who ordered the journalist’s arrest, stating that the case is between Agba Jalingo and the Federal Government.
“In court, it is Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State,” Ayade told reporters on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he went to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.
He added: “He’s in court for treason.
“A state does not have the power to try anyone for treason.
“It’s not me.”
Governor Ayade said the arrest and trial of Agba Jalingo are in connection with Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protest, adding that the journalist left his core profession and began to meddle into politics.
He said: “On his Facebook page, he sent pictures where he was being teargassed at the revolution march in Lagos.
“His own pictures, posted by himself and when Sowore was being arrested, he went back to his Facebook to post that the revolution has just started, ‘we will continue this battle until revolution works’.
“He admitted this in Court.
“You are seeing him as a journalist, but he’s not, he’s the chairman of Sowore’s party in Cross River State, so he’s a politician.
“He has a primary calling, which is journalism.
“Once he started the campaign to overthrow the government of President Buhari, he ceased to be seen from the point of a journalist because he has become the state chairman of a party.”
The governor reiterated that he has been working for Jalingo’s release from Calabar prison, where he has been incarcerated.
Until his arrest, Jalingo was the publisher of Cross RiverWatch.
He was apprehended on August 22, 2019 allegedly over a report suggesting that Governor Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state, a claim which the government has strongly refuted.