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Anger as FIJ reporter spends seventh days in police cell

Activists, media stakeholders and other Nigerians have expressed anger over the prolonged detention of a reporter with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, Daniel Ojukwu.

The Director of the Nigeria Police Force-National Cyber Crime Centre, Uche Ifeanyi, on Tuesday, said the bail conditions for the detained journalist had not been met.

Ifeanyi said this when quizzed by The PUNCH on Tuesday on why the journalist was still held a week after he was picked up in a Gestapo manner by the police on the streets of Lagos.

The PUNCH reported on Monday that the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, confirmed that Ojukwu, who was picked up Wednesday, May 1, 2024, was transferred to the NPF-NCC Centre in Abuja on Sunday.

The police said a petition was filed against the journalist but had not given details of the said petition.

But FIJ on Monday reported that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria was behind the petition that led to the abduction of Ojukwu by the police.

According to the media house, the petition is in relation to FIJ’s coverage of an alleged financial mismanagement in the office of the  Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.

In one of its investigative pieces on the office, FIJ had reported how a sum of N147.1m reportedly meant for the building of classrooms and a skill acquisition centre was allegedly sent to the account of a restaurant.

But in an official statement on its X handle on Monday, the OSSAP-SDGs denied the allegations as “false from the onset.”

The statement said the office “has been transparent in its operations and project implementation processes” and noted that “therefore, the assertion that our project was sponsored by a restaurant is false and baseless.”

Human rights activist and former presidential candidate of the Africa Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, on Tuesday said he “met Daniel Ojukwu on Monday in detention at the FCIID in Abuja and found out he was being detained by one of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s people.”

Sowore in a post on X said, “We tried everything we could to get him released and the efforts would continue today (Tuesday).”

The FPRO, Adejobi, when contacted on Tuesday said he would find out why the reporter was still being held.

“I will find out from the NCCC and update you,” he said in a text.

But while responding to questions from our correspondent on Tuesday evening, the cybercrime director, Ifeanyi, said the papers for the reporter’s bail conditions had been served but the conditions were yet to be met.

The director, in a telephone conversation, said, “We’ve served them paper for bail conditions. I think the problem is they’ve not been able to meet up with the bail conditions. The person they brought yesterday (Monday) could not even produce an ID card. They brought someone today who is not a civil servant. You know how sensitive the case is. So, once they bring the civil servant of measure, we will know.”

He also said the reporter was not being denied bail. “It’s a bailable offence, we’re not denying him bail. If you have access to him, he will tell you the same thing,” the director told The PUNCH.

But a source privy to the case faulted the bail purported conditions.

The source, who is privy to the efforts to bail the reporter but did not want to be named in print, said, “What they did was that they gave bail conditions that included two directors in Abuja with landed property. They subsequently varied it to say anyone could bail him.

“They (the police) agreed they could use the chairperson of the Abuja chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists – that was yesterday. And today (Tuesday), they did everything, they even went to confirm his address. But when they got back, they said they were reversing the hail conditions.”

The source added that when the details of bail condition was asked for, the police said they were with the suspect.

“This is the same suspect in detention nobody has access to. So these guys know what they are doing; they don’t want to release him. I’m aware the IG is directly making sure the journalist doesn’t leave. They’re using shady tactics to keep him there. That the bail conditions were not met is a blatant lie,” he added.

On his part, FIJ’s founder, Fisayo Soyombo said it was “insane” to keep the journalist for that long. “I can’t believe this is happening in a democracy. The law is clear. If you feel that something false has been published against you, the process is laid down, you go to court and institute a case. You can’t just pick someone in Gestapo style and claim the person has a case to answer.”

Soyombo, who has also been in the eye of authorities for his critical investigative reports, told The PUNCH on Tuesday that: “To the best of my knowledge, up till now, the reporter has not been grilled. So, what case are they saying he has to answer?”

Meanwhile, the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Eze Anaba, condemned the prolonged detention of the reporter.

While he maintained that the NGE was working behind the scene to get the reporter released, Anaba said, “The police cannot detain somebody for seven days under any law in Nigeria as we speak.”

He said the police were the ones giving interpretation to the Cybercrime Act which the police had been using to hunt alleged defaulters.

“But you cannot detain a man more than 24 hours without taking him to court, so to that extent, it is illegal,” he added.

He maintained that the understanding of the police of the Cybercrime Act would also be challenged by civil society groups and the media.

He said the Act did not permit the police to detain Ojukwu for that long except as ordered by a court of law.

The National Coordinator of a human rights group, the Take It Back Movement, Juwon Sanyaolu, on Tuesday, said attacks on journalists were attacks on democracy.

Sanyaolu in a chat with our correspondent said, “This is the same manner in which police and virtually all state armed forces often arrest, brutalise and detain harmless protesters. We are not surprised. But an attack on the press is an attack on democracy. The police must immediately free Daniel Ojukwu. The police always tell citizens to follow due process, but they themselves don’t obey or follow the due process of the law that created them. Quite unfortunate.”


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