The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned the attack and threat to the life of Mr. Lanre Suraju, a leading anti-corruption crusader and chairman of the Lagos-based non-governmental organization, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), and members of his family by a group of unknown armed men who stormed his residence, assaulted them and made away with valuables, including sensitive materials.
CWPPF therefore called on the security agencies and appropriate state institutions to carry out thorough investigation and ensure the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to book.
Mr. Suraju was on March 28, 2022 attacked by a five-person squad of unknown heavily armed assailants who broke into his residence, and assaulted him and his family. They carted away five phones including: one Samsung phone, two iPhones, two iPads; two Macbook pro laptops, a Dell laptop, a Toyota Corolla 2014 car, jewelries, ATM cards, cars keys, Bank Tokens, office documents among other valuables belonging to him and his family.
The Coalition recalled that this was not the first time journalists, media professionals, press freedom advocates and civil rights activists have been targets of oppression by anti-democratic elements.
CWPPF cited the case of the Executive Director of the International Press Centre (IPC) and former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr. Lanre Arogundade, who was arrested by officials of the Department of State Services. The group said though the security outfit claimed that Arogundade’s arrest was a case of “mistaken identity”, it however noted that Mr. Arogundade recounted that he has been regularly grilled by DSS officials while travelling.
The Coalition pointed out that these among several other attacks targeted at proactive individuals engaged in human rights and media freedom activism is a reflection of the sustained assault on the civic space by elements resistant to being held accountable to the people.
CWPPF said it sees the work of individuals, media and civil society groups who expose corruption by state institutions and officials, as complementary to the Federal Government’s publicly stated policy of fighting against corruption. It added that in exposing corruption in government, these individuals and groups are acting in the public interest and in the specific case of the media, it is constitutionally mandated to hold the government and public office holders accountable to the people.
It said for this reason, the Federal Government as much as the general public should see the news media and civil society groups as partners and not adversaries, and should support and protect them to enable them effectively play their accountability role.
CWPPF reiterated its standpoint against any form of attack on journalists, media and civil rights actors in the strongest possible terms. And called on appropriate state institutions to carry out thorough investigation and ensure the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to book.
The Coalition said it will continue to uphold its stance against any form of oppression to suppress human rights and press freedom in Nigeria and across the sub-Saharan region.
The CWPPF is a group of 17 media and civil society organisations committed to upholding democracy and good governance by protecting the ethos of whistleblowing, freedom of expression and press freedom.