March 23, 2016
Inspector General of Police
Police Force Headquarters
Louis Edet House
Via Personal dispatch
Dear Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase:
We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, write to call your attention to the case of Nigerian journalist Yomi Olomofe, the publisher of the community monthly Prime Magazine, who was brutally beaten on June 25, 2015, at the Nigeria Customs Service office at the Seme border crossing in Lagos State.
Customs officers had invited Olomofe and McDominic Nkpemenyie, a correspondent with the Rivers State-funded Tide Newspaper, to their offices at Seme to discuss allegations that customs officers were complicit in smuggling activities at the border, Olomofe told CPJ. There, a group of men beat Olomofe into a coma, as CPJ documented at the time.
We refer you to a June 27, 2015, petition Olomofe sent to your office after he regained consciousness, a petition your office acknowledged having received on July 1, 2015. For your reference, the petition, which CPJ has seen, is titled, “Petition Against Mr Momoh (Basket) Shehu, Elijah and 20 others for violent physical assault, and attempt to murder Mr Olomofe John Yomi.”
We are troubled that police have made no arrests or brought any charges in connection with the assault, despite Olomofe’s having identified his assailants to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, in Lagos State.
In fact, instead of acting on Olomofe’s complaint, police have made him a suspect. Inspector Shaibu Aminu, the investigating officer handling Olomofe’s case at the SCID in a telephone call on March 8 told CPJ that he would be arresting Olomofe’s attackers the next morning but that Olomofe’s presence was urgently needed at the police station. CPJ communicated this information to Olomofe and his lawyer, and Olomofe on March 10 went to the police station, where he was conveyed to the offices of Police Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Alagbon, Lagos State, where he was arrested and detained overnight, based on an October 2015 petition to the Inspector General of Police, which accused Olomofe of assaulting and attempting to extort the men he said attacked him, Olomofe, his lawyer, and the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) told CPJ.
The NUJ on March 11 secured Olomofe’s release on 500,000 naira ($2,509) bail, Olomofe told CPJ. He said that the FCID Alagbon have been calling him to present himself for further questioning regarding the counter-allegations.
We ask that you ensure that the officers under your command treat the brutal beating of a journalist on government property with the seriousness it deserves, rather than treating the victim as a criminal. We believe your attention to this matter will send a strong statement that the police are concerned with bringing criminals to justice rather than retaliating against journalists who report on alleged crimes.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Deputy Executive Director
The Committee to Protect Journalists