Nigeria police detain, charge journalists for reporting on oil tycoon

Nigerian police arrested Emmanuel Fateman, assistant editor of the Abuja-based National Waves magazine, and Joseph Jolayemi, a graphics editor for the magazine, on December 16, 2014, and held them without charge for more than two months, according to news reports.

The two were detained after the magazine published a story on September 22, 2014, called “AA Oil Boss in N650million Scam,” which alleged fraudulent dealings involving a contract of about US$3,256,000 between an oil magnate and the Bauchi State government, according to news reports.

Jimmy Enyeh, publisher of National Waves, said the two journalists were arrested on the orders of the oil magnate after the story was published, news reports said. In a statement, Enyeh said the oil magnate wrote a letter to the magazine on September 29, 2014, demanding evidence regarding the story and saying that the magazine had not sent him a letter of inquiry before publishing the article.

But, the magazine’s lawyer said, Enyeh wrote a letter to the oil tycoon on September 1, 2014, that said the magazine possessed documents that showed the oil company had collected funds from the state government to fulfill a contract, which it had not yet completed, according to news reports. In his letter, Enyeh sought comment regarding the allegations, the lawyer said. The magazine’s lawyer said they never received a reply from the oil magnate.

In a press release, Enyeh said that after the story was published, he received numerous calls from anonymous individuals who threatened to kill him and members of his family, news reports said. He said he had been told that law enforcement agencies would punish him for publishing the story, according to news reports. Enyeh said he noticed unidentified men in a black Jeep following him, the reports said.

The journalists were charged and released on bail in early March, according to Shuaibu Leman, the national secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, and Festus Ukpe, the lawyer for National Waves, who said they did not have the journalists’ exact release date.

Ukpe told CPJ that Fateman and Jolayemi face charges of criminal defamation in one court, while the magazine and Enyeh face a civil lawsuit in another court. The next court date is scheduled for April 21, 2015, Ukpe said.