Human RightsNews

Four Days After, Nigerian Police Yet To Release FIJ Reporter Daniel Ojukwu

The journalist is currently being held in Abuja. Police spokesperson Muyiwa Adejobi did not respond to HumAngle’s request for updates.

Daniel Ojukwu, an investigative journalist with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), is yet to be released from detention four days after officers of the Intelligence Response Team, which reports to Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, arrested him in Lagos. 

Though Ojukwu was arrested on Wednesday, May 1, he was denied access to lawyers and relatives until FIJ made a missing person report at police stations in the area where he was last seen before his sudden disappearance. 

On May 3, when the world marked Press Freedom Day, Ojukwu’s family traced the reporter to the Lagos State Criminal Investigation Department in Panti. He was accused of violating the country’s Cybercrimes Act. 

“The arresting officers are part of the IG Monitoring Team. They said when they are done arresting the other people on their watchlist in Lagos, they would transfer him and others to Abuja,” FIJ quoted the family member as saying.

Ojukwu’s unlawfully prolonged detention has triggered public outrage on social media as free press advocates demand his unconditional release. 

On Saturday, the Nigerian National Committee of the International Press Institute called on the IGP, Kayode Egbetokun, to order his release with immediate effect. In a statement signed by its president, Musikilu Mojeed, the institute threatened that the police chief would otherwise be included in IPI Nigeria’s book of infamy and branded an enemy of the press.  

“Human rights violations have continued unabated because perpetrators are hardly held to account. It is time to begin holding those suppressing freedom of expression to account,” the group said. 

Similarly, the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) urged the police to ensure that the Cybercrimes Act 2015 ceases to be a weapon used in the harassment and arbitrary detainment of journalists. 

“We reiterate that such intimidation constitutes an attack on press freedom and the right of the people to information. The Nigerian Police, in this instance, must, therefore, avoid using the Cybercrimes Act to suppress investigative journalism aimed at entrenching a transparent and accountable system. Journalism plays a critical role in democracy, and such actions are bound to undermine its core principles,” Busola Ajibola of the Centre for Journalism and Innovation Development (CJID) argued.

Amnesty International has also condemned the wrongful detention, describing it as ‘draconian’.

“Apart from creating a climate of fear across newsrooms in Nigeria, arbitrarily detaining journalists is also gradually having the chilling effect of preventing people from freely expressing themselves. This is unacceptable,” it stated on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Ridwan Oke, a lawyer representing Ojukwu, confirmed that the journalist was moved to Abuja on Sunday morning. “He was allowed to make a call and he just spoke with me. He’s currently being held at the Threat Response Unit of the NPF National Cybercrime Centre in Abuja,” he said. 

Oke earlier faulted Ojukwu’s continued detention without a court trial despite the charge against him being apparently subject to bail. As part of the right to personal liberty guaranteed to every citizen, Nigeria’s constitution stipulates that anyone charged with an offence must be presented before a court within a reasonable time, ranging generally between a day or two.

Nigeria’s police spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, did not answer our call or respond to a text seeking updates on the case.

Attacks on the press by state forces have been frequent under the administration of Bola Tinubu, who became Nigeria’s president in May 2023, despite his assurances that he would respect journalists.

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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