Nigerians Storm Police Headquarters Over Detained Premium Times Reporter
A coalition of civil society groups, #OurMumuDondo, on Thursday stormed the police headquarters, Abuja to demand the release of the Premium Times reporter.
Led by popular musician, Charly Boy, the protesters insisted on the release of the reporter, noting that they would not leave until he was freed.
The activists briefly barricaded the Shehu Shagari Way, forcing motorists to ply alternative routes.
Presidential aspirant, Omoyele Sowore, knocked the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for pressurizing Ogundipe to disclose his source.
Another activist, Ralph Adebayo, described the IG as “ignorant,” noting that “he has been transmitting confusion since he became the police boss, stumbling from one controversy to another.”
The convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said the group would continue to besiege the police headquarters daily until their demand was met.
Addressing the protesters, Moshood said the detention of the journalist was not a punishment, a claim that annoyed the campaigners, who objected loudly.
Asked why Ogundipe’s bank account was frozen, the force spokesman said, “It is part of the investigation; we should try to educate ourselves. The Judges’ rule permits the police if an offence is committed in Abuja to go as far as Lagos to get evidence in the resolution of the matter.”
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has written to the United Nations over the arrest and detention of the reporter.
This was as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, condemned the arrest and detention of the journalist, describing it as a re-enactment of the “inglorious locust days of Decree No. 4 of 1984 under President Muhammadu Buhari, then as a military dictator.”
In a letter dated August 14, 2018, and addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr David Kaye, SERAP said it was worried that media freedom was being eroded by the police in Nigeria.
It urged the UN to urgently intervene and prevail on the Federal Government and the IG to immediately free the detained journalist and stop the move to criminalise the freedom of expression in the country.
“There is a compelling public interest case in the protection of journalists’ sources. In this case, the attempts by the IG to force Samuel Ogundipe to disclose the sources of his story cannot be justified on the grounds of public interest.
“In SERAP’s view, the continued detention of Samuel Ogundipe for having refused to reveal the source(s) of his story has violated not only his right to personal liberty but also his right to freedom of expression.
“We, therefore, request the Special Rapporteur to prevail on the IG to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Samuel Ogundipe and to end the intimidation and harassment of journalists and the media,” SERAP said in its letter.
Ozekhome, in a statement, pointed out that journalists were protected by Section 22 of the Nigerian constitution to hold government accountable and responsible to the citizens.
“I wholeheartedly condemn, in the most unequivocal terms, the latest onslaught, assault and detention carried out by an increasingly intolerant and desperate non-performing government, in a Gestapo-like manner, against Premium Times and journalist Samuel Ogundipe,” Ozekhome said.
The police have alleged that the Premium Times Security reporter, Samuel Ogundipe, violated the Official Secret Act and the CyberCrime Act, adding that he was equally being tried for theft of classified document.
The force insisted that Ogundipe’s action was detrimental to national security, noting that it could jeopardise peace and was capable of causing a crisis in the country.
Ogundipe was arrested on Tuesday by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad operatives over the publication of the report of a police investigation into the invasion of the National Assembly by the Department of State Services, and was remanded in police custody till August 20 by a Kubwa magistrate court.
In a statement in Abuja on Thursday, the Force Spokesman, acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, also stated that the accused journalist had volunteered statements and he was standing trial.
It said, “The Force is categorically stating that Ogundipe is being investigated and prosecuted for the offences of theft and unlawful possession of restricted and classified documents inimical to state/national security that can jeopardise peace, the breakdown of law and order capable of precipitating a crisis in the country.
“Ogundipe is also being investigated and prosecuted under other offences which violate Official Secret Act, CyberCrime Act, and the Penal Code for which he has volunteered statements and is standing trial.”
Moshood stated that Ogundipe was arraigned in court in less than 24 hours of his arrest, adding that the police “as a law-abiding organisation will continue to ensure that the rule of law and its supremacy which are essentials of democracy prevail at all times.”