Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the October 13, 2022 arrest and detention of two Ilorin-based journalists, Mr. Dare Akogun and Mr. Abudlrasheed Akogun by the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Police Force in an effort to coerce them to retract an allegation of corruption they reportedly made against an official of the State Government. Mr. Abdulrasheed Akogun is the proprietor of an online news and television network known as Fresh Insight TV while Mr. Dare Akogun is an investigative journalist with Sobi F.M. radio.
In a statement issued in Lagos by its Director of Programmes, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, to put an end to the incessant practice whereby politicians, government officials and other powerful individuals use the Police to shield themselves from scrutiny or criticism and to harass or intimidate journalists and media organizations reporting on their activities.
Mr. Akogun was invited by the Police by a letter dated October 7, 2022, which was delivered to him on October 12, 2022, to meet with the Deputy Commissioner of Police in the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Police, Mr. Steve Yabanet, on October 13, 2022 at 11am. The letter claimed that the office was investigating cases of inciting disturbance, injurious falsehood and criminal defamation against Mr. Akogun but said the invitation for him to report at the office was “just a fact-finding invitation.”
However, when Mr. Akogun honoured the invitation on October 13, he was asked by the Deputy Police Commissioner to write a letter of apology to the Chief Press Secretary to the State Governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, who had petitioned the State Police Command asking it to investigate and prosecute Mr. Abdulrasheed Akogun and Mr. Dare Akogun for alleged criminal defamation against him.
The spokesman of the Governor had claimed in the petition that the two men committed the offence through their WhatsApp posts on September 30, 2022 in which they accused him of facilitating the use of over N15 million in public funds to prosecute the last chairmanship election of the State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Without ascertaining the veracity or otherwise of the report, when Mr. Akogun arrived at the station, accompanied by his lawyer, Mr. Taiwo Olaitan, the Deputy Police Commissioner asked him to write the letter of apology to the Chief Press Secretary. Mr. Akogun, however, declined on the ground that it would amount to admitting to the charge of injurious falsehood and criminal defamation, whereupon the Deputy Police Commissioner ordered that he should be detained.
Describing the action of the Deputy Police Commissioner as unlawful, an abuse of power and an abuse of his office, Mr. Longe said: It is embarrassing that the Police now consider that it is their primary function to protect the reputation of political office holders, politicians and other powerful individuals and misusing their coercive powers to play this role. The Inspector-General of Police should immediately call his officers to order and advise them to desist from making themselves tools in the hands of the rich and powerful.
He called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Akogun, warning that if this was not done within 24 hours, MRA would take legal action to protect and enforce his fundamental rights and seek substantial damages for the oppressive violation of his rights.
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