CPJ urges Nigeria to probe police harassment, assault

New York, June 29, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on national police Inspector General Mike Okiro to investigate reports that Delta state police harassed six journalists and attacked at least three of them last week. The Nigerian Union of Journalists Delta State Chapter said police attached to the state Ministry of Land prevented the journalists from reporting on the June 23 demolition of several buildings on government land. 

“Politicians have consistently used the police to attack and intimidate journalists in the southern Delta region of Nigeria,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “It is time the inspector general took action and ensured journalists are allowed to carry out their work without fear of police violence and harassment.”

The six journalists had sought to cover the demolition of homes and buildings that were condemned after allegedly being constructed without proper permits on government property in the state capital, Asaba, local journalists told CPJ. The journalists were Obinna Ume from the private Africa Independent Television, Daniel Ayemere from the private broadcaster Minaj Broadcast International, Aderemi Omotoso from state Radio Nigeria, Alphonsus Agborh from the government daily Nigeria Tribune, Albert Ograka from the private regional weekly The Tide, and Nkem Nweke from state television broadcaster Delta Rainbow.

Ume presented press credentials to the police at the demolition site, local journalists said, but officers seized his identification card and pushed him into the ground. Police then forced the six journalists to lie on the ground, beating Ume and Ayemere with the butt of their guns and kicking Omotoso, the union reported. Ayemere was treated at a local hospital for his injuries, local journalists said.

Delta State Police Commissioner Yakubu Alkali told CPJ that he was unaware of the episode. The journalists union has petitioned Inspector General Mike Okiro to undertake an inquiry and has called on colleagues to impose a moratorium on police reporting until the case is investigated, said the union’s state chairman, Felix Ingekoyi. As inspector general, Okiro monitors the activities of Nigeria’s police.

Ingekoyi said the Ministry of Lands is providing 15,000 naira (US$100) to replace Ayemere’s glasses, which were damaged during the incident. Ingekoyi noted that Ayemere had additional medical bills.