May 9, 2024

Detained journalist, Daniel Ojukwu will be released soon — Police

Abducted FIJ reporter, Daniel Ojukwu regains freedom

FIJ reporter Daniel Ojukwu

…as protests against FIJ reporter’s illegal detention intensify

By Joseph Erunke, Abuja

The Federal Capital Territory, FCT Police Commissioner, Ben Igweh, has assured that the detained reporter with Foundation for Investigative Journalism,FIJ, Daniel Ojukwu would soon be released from detention.

The commissioner disclosed this while addressing protesters at the entrance of the Force Headquarters in Abuja on Thursday.

He said the Force Management Team has looked into Ojukwu’s matter and resolved that he be released.

Igweh, however, was evasive of the date for the release of the detained journalist.

The CP, however, warned journalists to be wary of what they write and say so as not to fall into the wrong arm of the law.

Igweh said journalists who commit ‘strong’ offence would be arrested and prosecuted like any other citizen of the country.

Speaking following the protests that have rocked the country over the illegal arrest and detention of Ojukwu, Igweh insisted that journalists were not exempted from arrest and prosecution if they go against the law of the land.

He said, “Every Nigerian citizen has his fundamental human rights, including journalists. But the fact that somebody is a journalist does not exempt him from being questioned for offence committed. If you are a journalist and you commit strong offence, we will arrest you and we will prosecute you like every other citizen.

“The fact that you are a journalist and you commit an offence does not mean you will not be arrested and you will not be prosecuted. This one, we have looked into the matter and there is no need for this protest.

“The Force Management Team has taken a lot of things into consideration to release him. We and the press are friends. We are partners in progress.

“He will be released soon. I’m giving you assurance. From here now, I’m going there.”

When asked to specify where he was going and if he was going to meet the Inspector General of Police, IGP for the release, he said, “Don’t worry, I’m the CP of the FCT, every other office is within the FCT, including the Force CID. So, I’m meeting with the DIG Force CID, that is why I said he would be released soon. I don’t need to disclose everything.”

The protesters, who had displayed placards with various inscriptions, condemned Ojukwu’s continued detention since May 1 on an obscure account that he breached Nigeria’s cybercrime law.

Many CSOs including Accountability Lab Nigeria, BudgIT Foundation, Hope Behind Bars Africa, Media Rights Agenda, International Press Centre Rights, Partners West Africa and Centre for Journalism and Development, had earlier protested against the illegal detention of the investigative reporter.

The Country Director of Accountability Lab, Friday Odeh, who spoke on behalf of the protesting groups, decried the arrest and continued detention of the journalists.

In a prepared text, tagged: “Growing Concerns Regarding Press Behind Bars Freedom and Shrinking Civic Space in Nigeria”, which he issued to reporters, the activist called on immediate release of the reporter.

“Civil society organizations across the country are deeply concerned about the 8rowing cases of attacks on press freedom, and the flagrant abuse of due process and the rule of law by the Nigeria Police under the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Adeolu Egbetokun.

“Action Group on the Protection of Civic Actors, a Nigerian coalition of media and civil society groups working alongside international allies, sounds the alarm on the recent surge in attacks on press freedom and the silencing of dissent and civic voices.

“A free press and public participation are fundamental pillars of our democracy. Thus, the continuous silencing of journalists and civic actors who hold power accountable undermines the provisions of Sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression, respectively.

“Furthermore, the coordinated use of state resources, the mischievous interpretation and hyper-application of laws, especially the Cybercrimes Act of 2015 which has now been amended, and the abuse of power and public institutions are all draconian tactics deployed to further shrink Nigeria’s fragile civic space.

“These tactics have no place in a democracy, where accountability and transparency in governance are essential.

“Particularly, the recent abduction and continued detention of Daniel Ojukwu, a journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), exemplifies this disregard for the rule of law and democratic principles.

“Mr. Ojukwu’s fundamental human rights have been blatantly violated. Even though the Nigeria Police has filed no formal charges, he remains in custody.

“Additionally, Daniel’s unlawful arrest and detention contravenes the combined reading and cumulative effect of Sections 34, 35, and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which protects his rights to respect for the dignity of his person, personal liberty, and freedom of movement.

“Daniel Ojukwu’s case is the most recent in a recurring trend of similar attacks and harassment aimed at the media and other civic actors by Nigerian law enforcement and security agents.

“The familiar pattern these attacks seem to take is that the instrumentality of the Nigerian security apparatus is set loose on these individuals as soon as they express views unfavorable to the administration or in the case of journalists, as soon as they publish credible stories that cast the administration in an unflattering light.

“The expression of opinions, however critical they are of the government, is one of the critical bedrocks of democracy.

“Consequently, we unequivocally condemn Daniel’s abduction and unlawful detention as unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, and unbecoming in a country that claims to practice democracy.

“We maintain that for Nigeria to claim its status as the continent’s largest democracy, its institutions and law enforcement agencies must uphold established standards and procedures consistent with democratic norms. Until then, Nigeria cannot reconcile the title of the “largest democracy in Africa” with the practices and principles reminiscent of a police state.

“We also condemn the incessant use and abuse of the Remand Order process, which is observed to be the new machinery for which the Nigeria Police continuously violates the rights of Nigerian citizens. It is discovered that the Police boast of obtaining a Remand Order without providing such a document for the suspect or his lawyers to see whenever they unlawfully arrest individuals.

“Even when such orders are obtained, it is usually cloaked with suspicion as the Court from which it is obtained is usually miles away from the police station where the suspect is detained.

“Even where there is an established Court within a shorter distance of the Police station across the country are deeply concerned about the growing cases of attacks on press freedom, and the flagrant abuse of due process and the rule of law by the Nigeria Police under the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Adeolu Egbetokun,”the text read.