Police officers are seen in Lagos, Nigeria, on April 17, 2023. A court recently ordered police to pay damages to the family of slain journalist Alex Ogbu. (Reuters/Temilade Adelaja)

CPJ calls for further investigation after Nigerian court finds police killed journalist Alex Ogbu

New York, June 29, 2023—In response to a court ruling that Nigerian police shot and killed journalist Alex Ogbu at a protest in 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“The recent court ruling for the Nigerian Police Force to pay damages to the family of slain journalist Alex Ogbu is a step toward accountability, but more must be done to ensure such killings never happen again,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Nigerian authorities must explain why police initially said Ogbu died after hitting his head on a rock, why officers opened fire at all, and whether officers deliberately targeted him.”

On January 21, 2020, Ogbu, a reporter and editor with the local independent outlet Regent Africa Times, died at a protest in the capital city of Abuja held by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. At the time, police told the journalist’s wife Francisca Ogbu that he died after he slipped and hit his head on a rock.

However, on June 21, 2023, an Abuja High Court found that gunfire from Nigeria Police Force officers had killed Ogbu, and ordered the police to pay 50 million naira (about US$65,000) to his family, according media reports and Marshal Abubakar, a lawyer representing the family who spoke by phone with CPJ.

CPJ was unable to confirm whether Ogbu was reporting on the protest at the time he was killed. Regent Africa Times publisher Shola Akingboye told CPJ that he had not directed Ogbu to cover the demonstration, but believed that the journalist would not have passed by a protest without reporting on it. A member of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Abdullahi Musa, told CPJ at the time that Ogbu was not a member of their movement, and was known as a journalist who covered their protests.

Damian Agbe, a lawyer who represented the government in the court case, told CPJ on June 29 that he planned to review the judgement and advise authorities on the next course of action. He declined to comment on the police force’s initial description of the circumstances of Ogbu’s death. 

When CPJ called national police spokesperson Muyiwa Adejobi, the call was answered but no sound was heard. Further calls did not connect, and texts to that number did not receive any reply.

CPJ has documented the killings of at least 24 journalists in Nigeria since 1992. At least 12 of these journalists are confirmed to have been killed in connection with their work.