Press Statement:Jonathan’s men wage war against Nigerian Journalists


                                            Jonathan’s men wage war against Nigerian Journalists
                                           *League vows to resist govt

In the last two years of the nation’s current democracy, the world has been inundated with embarrassing reports of kidnapping occasioning illegal detention of innocent media practitioners, especially in the Federal Capital Territory by public office holders, elected and appointed, for selfish reasons.

The League is now compelled to draw global attention to the steady, deliberate and embarrassing bid to permanently silence journalists practicing in Nigeria by political office holders. The country’s constitution mandates practitioners to monitor and report to fellow Nigerians, nay the world.

Nigerian Journalist as endangered specie

Between May 29, 2007 and date, many cases of harassment, intimidation and illegal detention of journalists have taken place with the worrying dimension of criminal abduction by public officers of some of our colleagues.

Only last Wednesday, November 10, 2010, the publisher of Abuja-based fortnightly newspaper, Press Gallery, Alhaji Isiaka Mustapha was detained on the instructions of the new Inspector General of Police, Hafis Ringim. According to the IGP, the country’s numero uno law officer, Attorney General of the Federation and minister of Justice, Alhaji Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN had directed him to carry out the act.

Ostensibly, the AGF was miffed by the front page news item published by Press Gallery likening him to his successor, Chief Michael Aondoakaa, SAN and his alleged interference in the case between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and erstwhile governor of Bauchi state, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu and wanted to clear his name.

While we concede to him and indeed every other person aggrieved by media reports the right to clear their names, The League is worried that as the chief law officer of Nigeria, Adoke ought to know the limit of his powers as they concern the right to personal liberty of the individual.

He is not alone in this boat; the IGP colluded with him to detain the Press Gallery publisher from Wednesday, November 10, 2010 through Monday, November 15, 2010 without recourse to any law court as the country’s Constitution and other globally acclaimed laws and norms demand of them.

Equally, embarrassing to the federal government and President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR is that even when on Thursday, November 11, 2010, Alhaji Mustapha protested to his investigators that his right was being infringed upon, the police chief resorted to foul and demeaning language perhaps, to coerce the publisher to disclose the source of the story. And when our colleague refused to bulge, he was thrown into a cell occupied by alleged robbers, among others, at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Area 10, Garki, Abuja.

Efforts by many concerned media practitioners and lawyers to get the AGF to resort to the law court for redress, if any, were unheeded. Even when he was made to understand the likely interpretation watchers of the event would give to the development as per the seriousness of the federal government on its much touted rule of law, and fears that it may engender in the minds of politicians that Alhaji Mustapha’s plight in his hands and that of the IGP may be a rehearsal of what would come ahead, during and after the forthcoming general elections, our entreaties were rebuffed.

That the publisher who obeyed a hand written invitation on a rather dirty sheet of plain paper signed by a Chief Superintendent of Police in the Special Investigation Unit, SIU, in the office of the IGP, was released after 120 hours in Ringim’s detention, is enough indicator of justification for the fears expressed above.

Dangerous precedents

Alhaji Mustapha’s case may be the icing on a badly baked cake manifested by some lesser political office holders in recent times.

In 2008, the then editor of FRESHFACTS newspaper, Mr. Sam Asowata was abducted from his Abuja office by agents of Akwa Ibom state governor, Godswill Akpabio from his Abuja office and hurried to Uyo alongside his daughter. But that was not before Akpabio’s agents harassed staff of FRESHFACTS and caused maximum damage to the newspaper’s property.

The governor who was protesting alleged defamatory report about his person and government later ordered the editor’s release after weeks in his gulag. He had earlier ordered the release of Mr. Asowata’s daughter.

The build-up, which gradually assumed the pattern of a relay race, was stepped up last year, 2009 with the kidnap of the Abuja editor of National Life newspaper, Mr. Akin Orimolade by agents of Bayelsa state governor, Timipre Sylva.

It took a street protest by Orimolade’s colleagues back here in Abuja to compel Sylva to order his release from a remote cell in the suburbs of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital.

Before media practitioners could savour the release of their member, the sad news of the abduction of the publisher of another Abuja-based publication, The Parliament International magazine, Mr. Gowon Usman Egbunu broke.

In a commando style operation, agents of Kogi state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris stormed the Abuja office of the magazine in the morning of Sunday, March 21, 2010. From his Wuse II office, he was taken to Police clinic in Lokoja, the state capital. More that 48 hours after, precisely, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Mr. Egbunu was taken to a magistrate court from his hospital bed.

Of course, the magistrate did not waste time in ordering his detention in the notorious Koton Karfe prison, dozens of miles away from Lokoja. Pleas from Nigerians from far and near, for the state governor to free the publisher fell on deaf ears. Thus, for the next six month Mr. Egbunu was unlawfully detained in Koton Karfe prison on the orders of Kogi state governor who directed the publisher’s abduction by his known agents flaunting a court summons touting “inciting public disturbance” as his offence. He was set free and acquitted mid-September.

Instructively, all the public chief executive officers mentioned in the cases so far mentioned are of the president’s political party.

Last line

Given the trend of events as they affect the rights of journalists to have unfettered freedom to practice, The League wishes to call on President Jonathan to call his colleague PDP members to order. Their reign of rascality occasioning total disregard for the Nigerian journalist from practicing their profession must stop. Resort to kidnap, intimidation, death threats, coercion and violence must stop too.

The League hereby demands unreserved public apology from the AGF and his co-travellers in this dangerous path.

We hasten to add too, that The League is at the verge of pressing charges against known violators of the rights of journalists across the land even as we state that never again will media practitioners lie low in the face of tyranny meted on our dear colleagues by public officers, elected, selected or appointed. Enough is enough!

Signed and issued in Abuja, today, November 18,2010

Akin Orimolade{CHAIRMAN} Osedebamen Isibor {SECRETARY-GENERAL}                    Jim  Pressman                                                                                                                                                               {ORGANISING SECRETARY}

Timothy Elerewe


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