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    Attacks On The Media In February 2000

Police Brutalises Journalist After Monetary Inducement By Night Club Manager

On the 27th of February, this year by 12.00 midnight or there-about I went to Surulere Night Club for the purpose of seeing my colleague Mr. Femi Davies, a reporter for Hearts magazine who also doubles as the manager of Wasiu Alabi Pasuma.


The first person I ran into when I got to the Club was Mr. Taiwo Ademeno, AGM Operations of Surulere Night Club.  I had known Mr. Ademeno for quite sometime now, dating back to my days as the Operation Manager of the same club.  We had a good relationship while I was the manager of the club, though he was a staff of the parent company – SB BAKARE & BROTHERS in Apapa, and I had no reason to suspect any foul play.  Moreso the last time I  visited the club we  parted on a good note without any misunderstanding.  We exchanged pleasantries and he told me to see him later for a discussion.


After I exchanged greetings with Mr. Taiwo, I went straight into the club to see Mr. Davies.  I saw Davies sitting with about three other men discussing, then I headed to the bar and got a stool, ordered for a drink and began to wait for Davies after he had indicated to me that there was a meeting going on.


Surprisingly, after about 90 minutes at the bar, Mr. Ademeno came to me looking so miffed with an instruction that I should shift my seat from where I was.  Though suprised at his tone, I immediately complied with theinstruction.  But he was not satisfied as he pushed me, started calling me unprintable names and ordered the bar-man not to sell to me any further.


At this juncture, Davies was already through with his meeting.  I called him and told him how Ademeno maltreated me. But before he could respond Ademeno surfaced at the scene, this time threatening me and asking me to leave the club premises or he would deal with me ruthlessly.  I demanded to know what my offence was, he left without a reply  only to return with one of the three Mobile Policemen (MOPOLs) who had obviously been drinking, smoking heavily and walking regally around the club.


When the policeman accosted me, while I was walking away form Davies,  the policeman pointed at me  and said: “You look like a robber.” I quickly responded and told him I am a journalist.  He stared at me for a while and went back to Ademeno who was some metres away.  They talked for about three minutes and the MOPOL returned to me, imploring me to see Ademeno so we could talk together and settle but I argued that there was nothing between us, thus there is no basis for dialogue except he told the policeman what I had done wrong.


Ademeno was livid on seeing the MOPOL still talking to me and he shouted at him that if he refused to “deal with him” (me) there is no way he would pay them for that night.


It was like an order from a superior officer, the MOPOL swiftly went into action. He dragged me out to the open and gave me a slap on the face.  That seemed an invitation to other members of the team as they all rushed at me like bees on pleasantly scented flower.  I showed them my I.D Card as a member of the Lagos Branch of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), an affiliate of Nigeria Union of Journalists.  They took it from me squeezed it and threw it away.


They all pounced on me, amidst all these slaps, kicks, blows and, of course gun butts on my head, kneels and elbow. I reminded Ademeno, who stood there supervising these men doing his devilish wish.


Within minutes I was left bare of my belongings; wrist watch, gold wedding ring, a pair of shoes, belt, diary and a sum of N500.  Shirt and trousers inclusive, I was also stripped naked.


As helpless and weak as I was, innocent though, perhaps thinking that their “captive” would bolt away or to further inflict harm on me, they chained my right arm to the back door of the jeep they brought. The jeep has the registration number: Lagos: BL 552 GGE and the number 023 were written boldly on both sides.


Writhing in pains, one of them came to me holding a bottle of small stout in one hand and a wrap of Indian hemp on the other.  He teased me if I would like to drink beer but I was mute.  He asked if I needed a pen so I could write stories of what happened because if I don’t write, he would consider me a bastard.  While all this was going on, I was at the receiving end of his smoking as he deliberately puffed out smoke directly into my face and each time he did it, he would laugh in satisfaction.


When it was dawn and it was time for them to go, they unchained me, urging me to come off the vehicle. But I refused absolutely determined to force them to elect one of two  options available to me; take me to the police station or kill me.


Initially, I shunned all pleas until a friend who is a lawyer, Babashola Awodeinde, came around.  I discussed with him and he took me to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for immediate treatment.


Soldiers Arrest Journalists

A team of soldiers from Arakan Cantonment in Lagos on February 4, 2000, rounded up ten journalists on inspection tour of Mobil oil facilities at the Apapa Complex. The four soldiers led by RSM E. A. Ajobiwe drove into the complex in a jeep marked NA 897149. They were questioned by the RSM who told them that the area in question belonged to the Army and that Mobil had no authority inviting journalists to come and take pictures. He ordered them into the jeep to meet the commanding officer.


Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc had invited journalists to the complex to help educate the public on the health hazard of their dwelling in the shanty around it. About 30 journalists honoured the invitation. But when the resident saw them they called on the soldiers who came        and rounded up ten of them.


Editor Escapes Kidnap Attempt

An Assistant Editor with the Concord newspaper, Mr. Kayode Ogunmoriyele, on February 4, 2000 escaped from the hands of five kidnappers at Akure in Ondo State.


Mr. Ogunmoriyele had gone to the state to make further investigations into a story published by Weekend Concord of January 29 about a chieftain of the state People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who was maimed by persons suspected to be rivals. The story was titled: PDP Chief Butchered...Legs, Fingers Chopped Off.


The journalist had visited the Federal Medical Centre Owo, the office of the State Commissioner of Police, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution all in Akure.  Thereafter, he was returning to Lagos and was at the garage when two men accosted him and asked him to follow them to the State Chairman of the PDP who would like to speak with him.  They had earlier identified themselves as State Officials of the PDP.


They convinced him to follow them to the Chairman who was ready to reveal the party’s finding on the incident to him. He followed them into a waiting car in which the three men and the driver drove through a bush path.   On the way they queried his interest in the case.  He said he told them that he had no personal interest but that he was doing it for humanity. They told him that would be his last story.


When he asked what they were up to, they warned if he queried them again, they would bathe him with acid.


The journalist recounted that when it dawned on him that these people meant to harm him, he began to pray.  Because of an approaching tipper and the hill to climb, their driver had to stop in order to be able to accelerate.  But the car engine stopped running. All the driver’s effort to restart the car failed.


At this point Mr. Ogunmoriyele started shouting and when another vehicle began to approach he intensified his efforts.  The kidnappers had no choice than to let him go.  He said he ran for more than twenty minutes through the bush path before a farmer riding a motorcycle ferried him to safety.


Policemen Attack Journalists

Tony Obot of Brillan Sports, duly accredited to cover the recent African Nations Cup was on February 6, 2000, assaulted by policemen at the National Stadium in Lagos. Felix Okugbe of DAAR Communications was also harassed by a policeman.


The policemen, led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Neugi Msheika, initially prevented Mr. Obot from entering the national stadium where the Super Eagles team was practising, only to descend on him with slaps on the face and knocks on the head. His clothes were also torn. He was, however, rescued by the intervention of Sunny Oyarekhua, a member of the security sub-committee.


Paul Bassey, head of the media sub-committee begged the journalists who staged a boycott before they returned to their beats.


Governor Threatens Journalist’s Life

The Sokoto State government on  February 8, 2000, threatened to deal with The Punch Correspondent in the State, Mr. Stanley Yakubu. He was accused of allegedly giving the State “continuous negative coverage of activities.” The state governor’s Director of Press Affairs, Mallam Ibrahim Gidado told Stanley that he had been sent by the governor to warn him to be very careful and put a stop to all the nonsense he had been writing about the state and the governor in the interest of his life. He added that the State government was increasingly disturbed by his style of reporting. He, therefore, warned Stanley; “you may not live to tell the story.”


Gidado said the State government had watched how Stanley and his paper had fought against the Sharia issue and having failed had shifted to the governor and  his government. He reminded the journalist that he was in Sokoto State and not his own state, threatening: “Here, we can take care of people like you easily.”


Journalists Barred From Session

Journalists covering the National Assembly were on February 8, 2000, barred from the venue of the ministerial budget defence. Though no reasons were given for the action, it was believed that the lawmakers did not want the defence budget proposal for the fiscal year 2000 made  public.

About four ministers appeared before various committees to defend their ministries’ budget proposals from which journalists were hindered from covering. Even the Committee on Foreign Affairs which, initially allowed journalists later sent them out after the opening ceremony.


Assembly Members Seek Ban On House Coverage

Several members of the Benue State House of Assembly led by its Deputy Speaker, Alhaji Sule Audu, in mid-February tried vainly to sponsor a motion baring journalists from covering proceedings of the Assembly.  The House members also wanted a ban on members granting journalists interview.


Alhaji Audu said the ban had become necessary because interviews conducted by some journalists were always embarrassing, adding that often journalists reports of proceedings of the House were distorted.


Audu’s motion was supported by majority of the members, who said that radio Benue and the Voice Newspapers, owned by the state government, were the worst offenders.


However, the Speaker, Mrs. Margaret Icheen, overruled the motion and stressed that all arguments advanced by the legislators infringed on the freedom of the press.


Icheen pointed out that as representatives of the people, journalists could approached them at any time for interviews.


Governor Threatens To Blacklist Triumph

The Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, on February 16, 2000, threatened to blacklist the Triumph Publishing Company, Kano, publishers of the Triumph newspapers, because of alleged negative reports of the paper on the state.


Speaking with the management of the company led by the Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Danyaro, who paid him a courtesy visit, Turaki said the paper was not being fair to the state in its coverage of events.


He said he was disappointed to note that most of the newspapers’ reports on the state were negative, despite that Jigawa was once a part of Kano State.


The Governor said the state might stop patronising the newspaper, until it changed its “negative attitude”.


He pointed out that Jigawa and Kano should have a proportionate coverage from the paper, adding that the state government would no longer assist the company since it did not consider Jigawa as its catchment area.


Speaking earlier, Danyaro told the governor that they were in the state in continuation of their tour of the north-west states, which were the catchment areas of the newspapers.


Gov.’s Wife Dumps Journalists In Desert

Journalists representing different media organisations in Gombe State were on February 17 dumped about 120 kilometers away from the state capital while accompanying the convoy of the governors’ wife, Hajiya Aishatu Hashidu, on her local government tour.


The journalists were forced off a Toyota vehicle allocated to them in the middle of the journey on a terribly rough terrain by the chief detail to the governor’s wife, Miss Deborah Morgan.


Sources said that the chief detail officer was acting on the order of a higher authority to forcefully eject the journalists and hand over the vehicle to commissioners’ wives as their vehicles could not make the journey through the rough terrain running to hundreds of kilometers. The chief detail officer rebuffed pleas by the governor’s wife’s Press Secretary, Miss Lydia Kure, on behalf of the journalists.


The journalists had to trek a distance of about 25 kilometers to the main road before returning to Gombe   by public transport.


Magazine Sales Manager, Driver Attacked

On February 21, 2000, Timothy Olakunle Ojo, The News magazine’s sales manager in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria, was attacked near the Jos Road area of the city by religious zealots who vandalised his car.


Saka Anifowose, a driver for the magazine who had gone to Kaduna to deliver The News consignment, was also attacked. He was stabbed three times by the rioters and is now receiving treatment in a Kaduna hospital.


Muslim protesters had held several rallies in support of the planned promulgation of Sharia (Islamic) legal system in Kaduna state.

On February 21, the Christians embarked on a demonstration against the proposed law. Clashes later erupted between members of the opposing groups leading to over 500 reported deaths.


State Assembly Attack Journalists

Journalists covering the Cross River State House of  Assembly were on February 23, 2000, abused and cursed by the State legislators for writing and exposing a bribery scandal now rocking the house. The legislators described the journalists as “illiterates, half baked graduates, and poverty stricken.”  The lawmakers who cursed them as well also accused them of being paid agents who was out to tarnish the image of the Assembly.


Journalists covering the Assembly had recently reported that the legislators had allegedly extorted N2.5 million from the Local Government Chairmen in order to influence their tenure to be made four instead of three years.


Reacting to the attack, the Association of Assembly Correspondents, in a letter to the Speaker of the State Assembly, on the same day, expressed disgust and disappointment over the legislators’ unguarded utterances on the issue. The letter signed by its Chairman, Comrade Increase Abasiubong, and the Secretary, Ubon Ekanem, asked the Speaker to call the legislators to order.


In the letter, they said. “… we detest the disparaging statements, name-calling and defamatory utterances made by some  lawmakers against the press.” They warned that “any further unprovoked attack on members of the revered profession will be vehemently resisted and possibly culminate into total boycott of the Assembly’s proceedings.”


Governor’s Aides Assault Journalist

Mr. John Ekpeyong, The Comet newspapers Correspondent in Akwa Ibom State on February 26, 2000, had his tape recorder and cassette seized by the aides of the Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori at Okop Ndua Erong in Akwa Ibom State. Chief Ibori was at the village to witness the traditional marriage of the daughter of Governor Victor Atta of Akwa Ibom State.


Mr. Ekpeyong had approached Governor Ibori and was conducting an interview with him when one of his aides tapped his shoulders and asked him to leave Chief Ibori alone. He was moving away after being refused further questions by the governor when the aide asked him to give him the tape. Mr. Ekpeyong refused to hand over the tape saying he got permission to interview the governor. But that did not placate the aides who pounced on him and forcibly seized his working tool.


Gun-totting Policeman Storms Media House, Causes Stir

Mr. Sikiru Ojewumi, a police inspector attached to the Bode Thomas Police Station in Surulere, Lagos on February 28, stormed The Punch newspaper Offices and threatened to shoot the workers. The policeman had reportedly drove to the premises in an unmarked stolen commercial vehicle, alighted from the bus and walked into the reception asking to see the General Manager.


When he was told to sit down and wait for his turn, he allegedly walked off climbing the staircase. The receptionist rushed to stop him, but he drew out his gun and threatened to shoot him. The ensuing pandemonium attracted other staff. It was Mr. Adenigba that was able to approach him, calm him, and took him to his office where he interrogated the rampaging policeman.


He revealed that he was the policeman who was wrongfully dismissed from service three years ago for arresting an armed robber but reinstated and promoted after The Punch Correspondent in Abeokuta did a story on his travails. He was carrying the newspaper and other documents relating to the case with him. But his mission at the media house on that day was not known.


While being interrogated, the media house called the Lagos State Special security outfit, “Rapid Response Squad” which came, disarmed and arrested him. He was taken to the Isokoko Police Station where he was detained.


Four Journalists Arrested and Detained

Four reporters with Newsflash newspapers, an evening tabloid, Bashir Fasasi, Gbade, Mrs. Kemi Alomaja and David Oladimeji were on February 28 arrested and detained by the police in Ikeja, Lagos.


They were arrested over a front-page lead story published by the paper where it alleged the involvement of Senator Bola Tinubu, Governor of Lagos State, in a drug deal. They were detained at Area ‘F’ Police Station in Ikeja.


Media Rights Agenda (MRA) demanded their immediate and unconditional release saying it viewed the continued detention the reporters without charge or trial, after more than 24 hours in custody, as arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional and a  gross violation of their rights under Sections 34, 35, and 41 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 3(2), 4, 5, 6 and 12(1) of the African Charter.


They were not released as at month end.








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