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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 State.

               
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 Excellencies”.

 

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

 Mr. 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 operatives detoured.

 

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 Cross 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 stations.

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.
 

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