On May 26, 2023, the police arrested Mr.Ameh Ejekwonyilo, the Premium Times online newspaper judiciary reporter, for using his phone to film a scene of arrest at the Supreme Court premises. They confiscated his phone and detained him in their office at the Supreme Court in Abuja for about four hours before releasing him.
After arresting him, two of the police officers attached to the Supreme Court police station, Peter Ekele and Mary Ogbome, seized Ameh’s phone and took him to their nearby office on the court premises.
Following his arrest, the reporter could not get in touch with his editors about his situation until he was handed his phone for him to unlock with his PIN to enable the police officers to access the pictures and videos on the device at about 1.07 pm. He took advantage of the opportunity to send messages to his editors intimating them about his detention.
The reporter said he repeatedly asked what offence he had committed, but they could not say. He said it took the intervention of his editors, the Director of Information of the Supreme Court, Festus Akande, and the Police Public Relation Officer, Force Headquarters, Muyiwa Adejobi for him to be released at about 3:30 p.m.
One of the reporter’s colleagues who also covers the judiciary, who witnessed the arrest, called the journalist’s supervisor, Ade Adesomoju, Head, Premium Times Judiciary, Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Desk, to shed light on the situation.
Members of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC) led by Kayode Lawal pleaded with the police to release the reporter but were ignored.
For more than two hours after Mr Adesomoju and another Premium Times editor, Bisi Abidoye, arrived at the Supreme Court police station and engaged the Divisional Police Officer, Rakiya Gimba, in a lengthy discussion over the matter, the police continued to hold on to Ameh.
Asked which law the reporter broke to warrant his arrest, the police officers repeated the same refrain that he tried to hide his phone when an officer demanded to know why he was filming the scene. They also claimed he refused to film the earlier part of the scene where a woman being arrested allegedly slapped a police officer, though the woman denied slapping any of the police officers.
The police insisted that the reporter must write a statement as part of their investigation process. They made him write a statement and in fact, tried to dictate what he should write but the reporter insisted he would not change his statement.
He was later granted “bail on self-recognition and his mobile phone returned to him.