Attacks On The Media In September 2003
Police Orderlies Assault Photojournalist
Mr. Christopher Nwabuakwu, a
photojournalist with Daily Independent newspapers was on September 1,
2003, assaulted by policemen attached to the governor of Lagos state,
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The policemen inflicted bruises on the
journalist in his face, head and hands, and also damaged his camera.
The incident occurred at the governor’s
office in Alausa, Ikeja area of Lagos, during a protest march by the Lagos
State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), over an assault
on Mr. Akintunde Akinleye another photojournalist with the same newspaper
by police orderlies to Vice President Atiku Abubakar during the coronation
of Lagos Monarch, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu on August 30.
The protesting journalists who marched to
the governor’s office carrying placards, called for the removal of the
state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake, for his
alleged “unfeeling utterances” during the August 30 incident.
The intervention of Mr. Segun Ayobolu,
press secretary to the governor, and Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, his deputy,
restrained the policemen from inflicting serious injuries on Mr. Nwabuakwu.
The chairperson of the Lagos NUJ, Mrs.
Funke Fadugba, who led the protest march said the union at the national
level has instructed its lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana to institute a legal
action against the Inspector General of Police over the assault on Mr.
Akinleye by his men.
Mrs. Fadugba noted that policemen have recently unleashed persistent
violence on journalists at public functions, and vowed that the union has
resolved to address the issue.
Governor Tinubu castigated
journalists for their reporting of the assault saying: “Those reports have
not only been unfair to me, they are unfair to the Vice President and they
do not describe the totality of the effort we put into having a life-long
experience of installing the Oba of Lagos”.
Security Men Bar Journalists From Taylor
Security personnel on September 4
prevented journalists from either interviewing or taking photographs of
exiled Liberian President, Charles Taylor when he visited President
Obasanjo at his Ota home in Ogun
Taylor, amid tight security, arrived the presidential wing of the Murtala
Muhammed Airport, Lagos
accompanied by Governor Donald Duke of Cross
Rivers State at about 10.30 am
from where they proceeded to Ota. Security men shielded
Taylor from journalists and photographers
who made efforts to have a session with him.
Before Taylor’s return from Ota, an aide to Governor Duke appealed to
journalists and photographers not to interview or take photographs of
Taylor, saying it was a directive from “His Excellency”. But he refused to
clarify which among President Obasanjo and Governor Duke gave the
directive when prodded by journalists to specify which of “His
When Taylor arrived the airport from Ota,
journalists and photographers who had positioned themselves behind the
perimeter fence separating the presidential aircraft were warned not to
take photographs of him. Security men, including State Security Service (SSS)
and mobile policemen threatened to deal with the journalists if they dared
take the photograph of Taylor on the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) hangar in a
bid to shield his image from being captured by the camera.
Security Operatives Bundle Journalist Out of Aso Rock
Cyril Mbah, a reporter with The Monitor newspaper was on September 17
bundled out of the Aso Rock Villa, Nigeria’s seat of government, by State
Security Service (SSS).
There was no official reason given for the expulsion but sources say it
may be as a result of an article in the journalist’s column on Sunday
September 14, titled “OBJ compels ministers to pray”. It is also believed
that the President considered the article offensive.
Reports have it that on September 15, President Olusegun Obasanjo asked
after the reporter while he was receiving in audience a delegation of Ogun
State Council of Obas (Kings). Journalists present replied that Mr. Mbah
was not at the Council Chambers, venue of the event.
The State Security Services (SSS) operatives subsequently invited the
reporter to their office where they took his press accreditation card.
According to Mr. Mbah: “They asked me if I am Cyril Mbah and I answered in
the affirmative. They asked me to surrender my accreditation card”.
After complying Mr. Mbah said the security operatives told him: “I have
been instructed to escort you out of the State House, you should not be
seen anywhere within the premises henceforth”.
Mr. Mbah said he believes the said article
and another two-page interview he had with a politician entitled “Atiku
not fit to rule” may have been responsible for his expulsion.
Two operatives led him out of the precinct of the Presidential Villa.
The operatives drove Mr. Mbah out of the Villa in a Peugeot 504 station
wagon to the first gate where he picked his car. They subsequently
escorted him to a part of Abuja called Area II Junction where the
Photojournalist Assaulted, Film Seized
Ademola Akinlabi, senior photographer with
TELL magazine was on September 23 at about 3 p.m. in Ibadan, the Oyo State
capital assaulted by Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao, publisher of The
Monitor newspaper and some of his aides. They also seized the film in his
camera and attempted to bribe him.
Mr. Akinlabi had taken shots of Alhaji
Arisekola-Alao at the premises of Alhaji Lamidi Adedabu while on a visit
purportedly to intervene in a dispute between Alhaji Adedibu and Governor
Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State.
Alhaji Arisekola-Alao was reported to have
flown into a rage when he saw the photojournalist take shots of him and
demanded: “Who is this, where are you from?” He turned down attempts by
Mr. Akinlabi to identify himself shouting: “No! No!! No!!! give me the
film, give me the film”.
The magazine’s reporter, Mr. Wola
Adeyemo, who was also present at the scene identified himself and his
colleague. He promise to surrender the negatives when the film has been
developed and not to use the photographs. He also explained that previous
shots in the roll of film would be damaged if they opened up the film as
he Alhaji Arisakola-Alao had demanded.
But Alhaji Arisekola-Alao was not
impressed by the explanation and continued to insist on having the film.
Some persons who were with him started to echo his order, shouting on the
reporter and the photojournalist. One unidentified aide to Arisekole took
hold of Akinlabi’s camera insisting that he removed the film.
Akinlabi eventually removed the film but
while trying to hand it over to his colleague, Arisekola’s aide snatched
it from him. Arisekola-Alao subsequently brought out a bail of N200 notes
estimated to be about N20,000 from his pocket and offered the reporter to
purchase another film. The reporter, however, refused to accept the money.
Journalists Face Harassment, Put Under surveillance
Messers. Ofonime Umanah and Edem Edem
Cross River State Correspondents of The Punch newspapers and The Week
magazine respectively have cried out over serious threats to their lives
and harassments by the state government for publications the government
considers offensive. They said suspected security agents have been
trailing the movements of the correspondents and placed their offices and
houses under watch.
In an interview with Mr. Edem Edem, he
alleged that the government was also using the State Council of the
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to perpetrate its victimization. He
said the NUJ’s Ethics Committee has already adopted wholesale attitude to
the alleged offences in line with a petition forwarded to it by the
Special Assistant/Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Mr. Dominic
Kidzu and has directed Umanah and himself to appear before it to respond
to the allegations.
He claimed that the membership of the
committee is lopsided and intended to favour the government adding that
they will not get fair hearing as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.
Reports have it that the Secretary of the
NUJ Ethics Committee, Mr. E. E. Okon, is also the Press Secretary to the
wife of the state governor, Mrs. Onari Duke while the Chairman of the NUJ
in the state, Mr. Sam Egbala, was a member of the ruling People’s
Democratic Party’s (PDP) Publicity Sub-Committee during the last elections
held in April and May 2003 even while still in office. He is also the News
Editor of Nigerian Chronicle, the Cross Rivers State-owned newspaper.
The Nigerian Chronicle in its September 10
to 16, 2003 edition published front-page report which alleged that Mr.
Umanah and the Management of Punch (Nig.) Limited are saboteurs. The story
was credited to Mr. Kidzu.
Mr Umanh alleged that there was a plot
hatched immediately after the last general elections to get him out of
River State. The government, he said,
started accusing him of siding with the opposition. He claimed that one of
the grouses against him was his refusal to defer to senior government
officials and the press secretary as many of his colleagues do.
He further claimed that his refusal to
use government facilities such as telephone and fax prefering those
provided by his organization, was also counted against him as an offence.
The reporter also alleged that top
officers of the state government have also taken exceptions to and branded
as “embarrassing” some of the reports he has filed on the movements and
activities of exiled former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor, his
aides, wife and children, who are staying in Calabar.
He said that Mr. Kidzu once threatened him
thus: “I am battle ready for you. Whatever happens should be considered as
the nature of the fight. We are on a warpath, we as government will deal
with you and your organization.”
Few days later Mr. Kidzu addressed a press
conference and issued a press statement titled: RE-Activities of Punch
newspapers and The Week magazine correspondents in Cross Rivers state”. In
the statement, he called on citizens, friends and business associates of
the state to distance themselves from the two media as the State
government “will henceforth keep those institutions at arms length”.
The statement castigated the management of
the newspaper and magazine, their editors and the correspondents. The
statement received generous airtime from the State-owned broadcast
Mr. Edem traced his ordeal to the lead
story of the August 25 edition of The Week magazine which he wrote. The
story centered on allegations by the opposition, of certificate forgery
against Governor Donald Duke. Besides publishing the allegations by the
governor’s opponents, the magazine also published the governor’s response.