At least 10 people, including officers of the Nigerian Prisons Service, allegedly beat Emmanuel Elebeke, a journalist with the independent daily Vanguard, at the premises of a high court in the capital Abuja on November 12, 2015, according to news reports. The reporter, who also takes photographs for the paper, told CPJ he was attacked after taking a photograph of three of the six suspects in a murder trial, according to news reports.
According to reports citing Elebeke, the journalist said he was beaten by uniformed officers and a group he believes were family members of the suspects on trial. Elebeke added that he was handcuffed after refusing to hand over his camera, according to reports. In an account of the attack published in Vanguard, Elebeke said one official hit him with a gun butt and the others kicked him with their boots. He added: “They stopped the beating when they finally got hold of the camera and made away with it in a prison bus.” Elebeke told CPJ he had injuries, including to his legs, and was hospitalized.
Elebeke told CPJ prison officials returned his camera to Vanguard’s office but the pictures taken at the court, along with personal pictures, had been deleted. “I want them to be brought to justice to serve as a deterrent,” Elebeke said. The journalist told CPJ he petitioned the police at Maitama district to investigate but the police chief told him the police cannot prosecute because the incident involves the prison service.
Paul Ella, the Abuja chapter chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, promised to “make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” according to news reports.
Francis Enobore, the Nigerian Prisons Service spokesperson, told CPJ the prison officers told him they did not assault Elebeke. He said the officers seized Elebeke’s camera for security reasons, after he took a photograph of the suspects. Enobore added that he had personally deleted the image before returning the camera to Vanguard‘s office.
Elebeke said the registrar and judge of the court where the murder case is being tried condemned the attack on him and promised to denounce the prison officials on December 18, 2015 when the murder trial is due to resume.