The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has joined the growing number of groups that have called on the Nigerian government to free the detained Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo, from prison.

In a letter to addressed to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the NLC National President, Ayuba Wabba said the travails of Mr Jalingo appear to be “persecution and not prosecution.”

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

Mr Jalingo, who is facing treason charges, is detained in Calabar prison and the court has refused to grant him bail.

The NLC told Mr Malami, that Mr Jalingo’s trial at the Federal High Court, Calabar, has been “very unusual and controversial”.

A secret recording where the trial judge, Justice Simon Amobeda, allegedly made some “biased” remarks against Mr Jalingo was leaked to the press late last year.

The leaked audio was published by TheCable on November 14.

It was reported that Mr Amobeda in the secret recording insisted that Mr Jalingo’s trial would go on whether or not the defence counsel wanted to withdraw from it citing the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Based on the leaked audio, Mr Jalingo had demanded his case should be transferred to another judge.

The NLC president, Mr Wabba in the letter also said;

Mr Jalingo’s travail appears to give off the scent of persecution and not prosecution. Such perception should not be allowed to thrive given that Nigeria is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Wabba wrote;

Without going into the merits or otherwise of the case, it is important to note that Agba Jalingo’s case is giving Nigeria a very bad reputation in the international arena as it has been construed that our government has scant respect for the fundamental right to freedom of speech especially of the media. It is important to correct the perception of persecution by putting in place both judicial and administrative processes of ensuring the release of Mr Agba Jalingo from detention.

Our concern is that the government should demonstrate that it is only interested in the lawful prosecution and not persecution of Mr. Agba Jalingo. We, therefore, request that the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation should use his good offices and secure the release of Mr Agba Jalingo as quickly as possible.

The Cross River government took over the prosecution of Mr Jalingo’s case from the Nigerian police.

The detained journalist is scheduled to appear on Friday before a new judge, Justice Sule Shuaibu who is the administrative judge of the Federal High Court Calabar.

The demand for the release of Jalingo is coming after his wife, Violet Agba on Tuesday February 9, cried out that her life and that of her children are under threat.

She stated this in her appeal to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay to intervene in the release of her husband.

Mrs. Agba in a series of tweets on her twitter handle @violetAgba said;

My husband #FreeAgbaJalingo has been in Calabar prison for 6 months for exposing corruption in Cross River state please help me sir @ProfOsinbajo and PACAC. Help me, sirs.  Our life is threatened since August 22, 2019, we have been running from pillar to post.