TheNews Magazine Reporter Beaten Up
The Benue State correspondent of TheNews magazine, Sunday Orinya, was severely beaten on December 2 by soldiers at the Government House in Makurdi, Benue State.
He was arrested at Benue Hotel, Makurdi where he had gone for an assignment, and then taken to the Government Hose, where he was stripped naked, given 120 strokes with a horse-whip and dumped in a toilet for about four hours.
The beating was said to have been ordered by the state Administration who was offended by a story entitled “Makurdi – Fire and Sex” written by Orinya and published in the December 8 edition of The News. The story examined a number of fire incidents in the State and presence of prostitutes at Government House official activities.
Narrating his story, Orinya said he was saved by the crowd of government staffers from being thrown out from the multi-storey building at the Government House by Captain Sa’ad, the Chief Security Officer to the Military Administrator.
According to him, “They started kicking and dragging me. The Chief Security Officer tore my Tee-Shirt. Thereafter, he asked his men to work on me. Instantly, all of them, about 15, started beating me with horse-whip. They whipped me for about one hour, thirty minutes and l fell down unconscious. They poured water on me to revive me and they started kicking me again. They asked me to walked on my knees over granite for over 30 minutes. They also asked me to walk with my head. I collapsed again and l was dragged into the toilet where l was left till l became conscious after over two hours.”
Captain Sa’ad withdrew Orinya’s accreditation to cover events at Government House before he was released at about 6.30 pm later that day. Upon his release, Orinya had to be treated at a private clinic in Makurdi for severe injuries he sustained during the assault.
Reporter Charged with Sedition
The Ondo State Correspondent of the Ibadan-based Daily Monitor newspaper, Femi Afolabi, was arrested in Akure, the state capital, on December 16 and detained until December 18 when he was arraigned before an Akure Magistrate’s Court on charges of sedition.
The action followed his publication in the newspaper’s December 15, 1997 issue entitled “Chief Judge Dares State Government: You Can’t Send Me On Leave” in which he alleged in its lead story that the State’s Chief Judge, Justice Sydney Afonija, had refused to proceed on his three-month retirement leave preparatory to his quitting the Bench as is traditional.
Afolabi was arrested by the police the next day upon a complaint made by Justice Afonja and detained at the Jighakoro Road Police Station in Akure.
He was detained until December 18 when he was granted bail by the magistrate court before which he was charged with seditious publication and further hearing in the case was fixed for January 22, 1998.
However, on December 29, three weeks before the date fixed for next hearing of the case, Justice Afonja wrote to the State Commissioner of Police, Iliya Lokadang, withdrawing his compliant against Afolabi and asking that the charges against the journalist be dropped.
In the letter entitled “Withdrawal of Complaint”, Justice Afonja said: “Upon further deliberations on the matter, it has been decided that the compliant and the charge against the said reporter be withdrawn in furtherance of the usual good relationship between the sate government, the judiciary and the press in a common cause of maintaining peace, social justice and fair play within the community.”
He therefore requested the Police Commissioner to ensure that his wish was carried out by the prosecutor and the presiding chief magistrate on January 22, the date to which the case was adjourned.
New Nigerian Editor Arrested
The acting editor of the Federal Government-owned New Nigerian newspaper, Mahmud Jega, was arrested in Kaduna on December 1, last year and briefly detained over an editorial comment published by the newspaper.
Jega was taken to the Kaduna State Police Command headquarters where he was detained for five hours.
He said in a statement after his release that the security agents were angry over the newspaper’s editorial of November 27, entitled “A Fire Too Many” after the November 10 fire incident which destroyed the Kaduna Central Market in the heels of two other such fire outbreaks in the state which destroyed part of Sabon Gari Market in Zaria an old Panteka Market also in Kaduna.
After examining the fire incidents, the editorial endorsed a call by Festus Okoye, a human rights lawyer and Executive Director of Human Rights Monitor in Kaduna, for the setting up of a high-powered judicial probe into the fire incidents.
The police were angered by the editorial’s reference to 12 people may have died in the Kaduna Central Market fire.
Jega was, however, released later that day after the managing director of the newspaper, Dr. Abubakar Rasheed, intervened. But the security agents threatened that he could still be summoned anytime the need arose.
The Diet Newspaper Editor Detained
The editor of The Diet newspaper, Niran Manaolu, was arrested on December 28, 1997 by soldiers from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) at the premises of the newspaper. No official reason has been given by the authorities for his arrest.
Malaolu was arrested with the newspaper’s night editor, Wale Adele; Head of the Computer unit, Emeka Egerue and Mr. Emma Avwara, a production sub-editor.
But Adele, Egerue and Avwara were however released on December 29.
The News editor, Tokunbo Olorunsola, said although those released were asked to report at the DMI on January 2, they were neither interrogated nor told why they had been arrested.
According to him, Malaolu and the three others were arrested at 10.40 p.m. by four armed soldiers who came in a dark blue Peugeot 505 car with registration number BF 71 EKY and reportedly scaled the high walls surrounding the newspaper’s premises to gain entrance.
He said the security agents threatened to deal with anybody who disobeyed their instructions.
Reports indicate that Malaolu is being detained at the DMI offices in Apapa and that he has repeatedly collapsed in custody. No reason has yet been given for his arrest and detention.
He has since remained in detention.
Journalist Assaulted By Soldiers Over Traffic Accident
The Lagos State correspondent of the Ibadan-based newspaper, the Daily Monitor, Dr. Abdul-Rahman Balogun, was on December 2 beaten to a state of coma by soldiers on the Ogun State antirobbery squad, “Operation Wedge”, following a traffic accident.
According to Balogun, who was driving from Lagos to Ibadan, a convoy of cars accompanying Ogun State Military Administrator, Wing Commander Sam Awang, suddenly emerged from the Sagamu road to join the Lagos Ibadan expressway. Unable to stop in good time, he collided with the rear escort car in the convoy.
He said as the collision occurred three cars in the convoy stopped while all the others sped off. The occupants of the three cars dragged Balogun out of the car onto the road and started to beat him with butts of their guns, batons as well as blows after which they bundled him into one of the cars and were driving away with him when his identify card fell out of his pocket.
Upon examining the identify card, the leader of the team directed his men to stop the beating. They then confiscated all items found on him, including his vehicle particulars, his newspaper’s identity card as well as the Lagos State Government House accreditation identity card, before they let him go with instructions that he should report at the Ogun State Government House in Abeokuta.
Court Orders Release of African Concord Editor, Govt. Disobeys
A Federal High Court judge in Lagos on December 16 ordered the immediate and unconditional release of detained African Concord magazine editor, Soji Omotunde, awarding him N100,000 as damages for his illegal arrest and detention.
But in defiance of the order, the Government continued to detain the editor who was abducted by security agents on October 25.
Omotunde was driving along Adeniyi Jones Avenue in the Ikeja area of Lagos on October 25 when security agents who were apparently trailing him, overtook his car and blocked it with theirs, a Peugeot 505 car. The agents wrestled Omotunde to the ground, bundled him into their car and gagged him as he shouted to attract attention, before driving away with him to an unknown destination.
In declaring his arrest and detention illegal on December 16, Justice Dan Abutu said the Government failed to show that its actions were justified under the Nigerian Constitution.
The decision followed a suit brought on Omotunde’s behalf by Mr. Nurudeen Ogbara, a lawyer, against the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), the State Security Service (SSS), the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation in which he sought N10 million as damages for the violation of his fundamental rights.
Justice Abutu ruled that from the evidence before the court, it was clear that Omotunde’s arrest was not based on any reasonable suspicion that he had committed any criminal offence as required by law and described the action of the security agents as “arbitrary, oppressive and illegal acts of the executive”.
He held that the arrest of Omotunde on October 25, and his subsequent detention since then, were in breach of the provisions of sections 30, 31 and 32 of the 1979 Constitution as amended and Articles 5 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and declared them illegal.
The Government is yet to comply with the order.
Road Safety Official Assaulted And Detained for Criticising Police
Police men took their intolerance for critical viewpoints beyond journalists last month when they arrested and detained the Lagos Sector Commander of the para-military Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Abayomi Omiyale, after assaulting him.
Omiyale was arrested in his office in Lagos at about 5.00 p.m. on December 29 reportedly on the orders of the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, by heavily armed men from the Lagos State Special AntiRobbery Squard (SARS) who beat him up and tore his uniform into shreds.
He was arrested along with the FRSC’s head of Operations, Joseph Aremu, and another FRSC officer, Azeez Ogundele. Aremu and Ogundele were however released shortly after the arrest while Omiyale remained in custody at the month’s end.
The action of the police was motivated by critical comments made by Omiyale of the Nigerian Police Force during a televised debate between him and the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Paddy Ogon, as well as during other similar television programmes, on the Federal Government’s plan to merge the FRSC and the Commission.
Omiyale had appeared on a number of television programmes, including “Encounter” (with Ogon) an African Independent Television (AIT) current affairs programme; “Kakaki” another AIT breakfast programme, and on the Lagos Television (LTV) where he vociferously opposed the proposed merger of the FRSC with the Police.
Describing how Omiyale was arrested, the FRSC’s Zonal Commanding Officer, major Rasak Salawu, said the policemen entered the Commission’s office at Ojudu, in Lagos and made for Omiyale’s office where they vandalized the widow glasses, pounced on him, raining blows on him. He was therefore handcuffed and driven away in one of the police vehicles.
Explaining why the police used an anti-robbery squad to arrest Omiyale, Tsau said: when we decided to pick him up, only SARS officers were on the ground, so we used them to do the job.”
According to him, Omiyale was arrested to prove his allegation that the Nigerian Police Force has failed the nation. Tsav said: “the other day he (Omiyale) was on television saying all sorts of rubbish against the Inspector-General of Police. We must not allow him to continue to insult then Head of the Nigerian Police Force and a member of the Provisional Ruling Council.”