By Omeiza Ajayi with Agency Reports
The Editor of NewsDigest, an Abuja-based online news medium, Mr Gidado Yushau, has been arrested by detectives from the Kwara State Police Command, five days after some Police officers in Lagos State arrested Mr Adebowale Adekoya, a professional webmaster for a news medium.
PRNigeria, a website which usually disseminates official press statements for Nigeria’s Defence, Security and Response agencies said the NewsDigest Editor and webmaster were arrested in a Gestapo-like style for publishing an investigative news story titled, “Inside Kwara factory where Indian hemp smoking is ‘legalized”.
It said Gidado who is also the Editor of the YouthsDigest was arrested on Tuesday night and first taken to Wuye District Police Station after the plainclothes Police officers stormed his residence in Abuja.
The factory, Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industry in Ilorin, is said to be owned by a former acting governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.
The report, which was published on 19 May 2018, was authored by Mr Alfred Olufemi, an award-winning campus journalist from one of the premier universities in the country.
In the report, it was stated that Hillcrest Agro-Alied Industry tolerated the smoking of cigarettes as well as Indian hemp by workers saddled with the responsibility of loading and off-loading processed and unprocessed grains in trucks without being sanctioned.
It was also reported that the firm refused to respond to the author’s inquiry on the disturbing situation after he had put several calls and text messages to the industry’s hotline.
Four detectives, early Wednesday left the Wuye Police Station with Gidado and Adekoya in a blue vehicle, en route Ilorin for further interrogation and with the intention of arresting Alfred.
PRNigeria quoted the lawyer to the arrested NewsDigest’s staff, Barr. Yunus Abdulsalam as saying it defies logic that something that happened last year May could be resuscitated now, a year and a half after the report was published by the newspaper.
The lawyer, who explained that Gidado is a well-known young media entrepreneur, faulted the police for storming the residences of the young journalist and his webmaster, in a manner that is reminiscent of a sting operation.
On what the ‘illegal’ arrest portends for the future of campus journalism, Bar. Abdulsalam, said: “This is a sad commentary and an ugly chapter in the life of campus journalism in Nigeria. This kind of illegality is not a good omen for campus journalism. It is also a traumatic and horrifying experience for NewsDigest and YouthsDigest, as a credible online media platform to promote activities of budding writers and young journalists.
“Both NewsDigest and YouthsDigest are two notable media organisations that have created competitiveness among campus journalists. And as a matter of fact, the author of the investigative report, and other young talents who often contribute stories for the two media platforms are reporters with untainted integrity.
“Thus, they are being engaged with by other credible and frontline media houses such as Premium Times, The Nation, ICIR, Blueprint and The Cable among others to serve as their campus correspondent and reporters. Had it been they are known for writing fictitious or libellous stories, would they have been engaged by the mainstream media establishments?”, he queried.
The lawyer insisted that the alleged ‘defamatory’ offence is one that permits both the NewsDigest’s Editor and webmaster to be granted bail, as such the police should do the needful without further ado.
“The alleged offence is not even one that necessitates arresting them. In fact, what the police did by arresting them can be compared to using a sledgehammer to kill an ant,” he said.