Samuel Ogundipe: Nigeria Journalists As Endangered Species

Nigeria News takes a look at the harassment of Nigeria journalists by the law enforcement agencies

Nigeria journalists played critical roles in bringing present democracy to bear. Virtually, they were in the forefront in the battle against the military dictatorship that spanned decades in the country political landscape.

The vivid memories of the murder of the torch bearer in investigative journalism, the Editor of Newswatch, Dele Giwa by the regime of the former Head of State Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida lingers.

Leaders of successive military governments arrested, detained and killed many journalists to perpetuate themselves in office. Many journalists, including Dapo Olorunyomi who is the publisher of Premium Times, the leading online medium was among those who faced military persecution.

He later went on exile, practised journalism abroad and fought tyranny in Nigeria from overseas. Besides prominent journalists, many of whom one might not be able to mention in this piece, there are thousands of reporters who suffer daily in the hands of government security operatives.

Journalists are battered, molested, manhandled by the police, soldiers and operatives of the Department of State Service.

One was expecting better working atmosphere for journalists when the Freedom of Information Bill was signed into law but things are yet to change in Nigeria.

Journalists still find it difficult to get necessary information from government offices. Most stories in the public are generated from press statements issued by the government itself or private enterprises.

Investigative journalism is dying by the day. However, journalists who strive to get scoops and write quality investigative stories are tagged enemies of the state. They are either arrested or terminated.

Till date, nobody has been arrested or prosecuted for the murder of Dele Giwa. Another popular journalist, Bagauda Kaltho was killed by the late dictator, Sani Abacha and nothing happened.

So when a journalist is arrested by the state in Nigeria, much noise must be made to secure his release before he is murdered.

The media is demanding the release of the Premium Times reporter, Mr Samuel Ogundipe who has been in the police cell in the last few days.

Ogundipe’s offence was that he wrote an exclusive in which the Premium Times published a letter by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

The story centred on the invasion of the National Assembly by the operatives of the Department of State Service, the consequent letter from IGP exonerating himself and the indictment of the former DSS boss, Lawal Daura.

Daura had since been sacked but instead of the police to investigate the former DSS boss, they unleashed their terror on an innocent journalist. The police asked Ogundipe to disclose his source without which he would rot in jail.

Disclosing the source, of course, is against the tenet of journalism. Ogundipe would not do such. After five days at the detention facility of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the police secretly arraigned Ogundipe before a magistrate for criminal trespass and theft of document.

He was not allowed to speak with his lawyer or his Editor in Chief, Mr Musikilu Mojeed. There is outrage in the media as the Nigeria Union of Journalists has also written a petition to the Acting President, Osinbajo to let him know about the violation of Ogundipe’s rights by the police.

In the petition, signed by the NUJ President, Alhaji Waheed Odusile, the professional body of journalists reminded the government about the incessant hounding of reporters by the men of Nigeria police and the need to stop these shenanigans.

It mentioned a number of journalists that had been molested by the police. They include Messrs Izuchukwu and Daniel Elomba who were abducted on January 1, 2018, by the SARS officers.

The police alleged that the two journalists published stories against IGP and were detained for ten days.

Another journalist with the Daily Trust, Abdullahi Krishi, was arrested on March 13 on the order of IGP over a publication. He was detained for two days in police custody.

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